In a few weeks, American children will head back to school. In many cases, they will be greeted by highly trained professional teachers who have their best interests at heart, and administrators who work tirelessly to provide them with the latest in academics and technology. Yet, from my observation and from what I hear from other professionals in the psychology and social work fields, our children are stressed out and struggling when it comes to school. Childhood anxiety and depression are on the rise, as are psychotropic drugs to help children deal with these struggles. What can parents do to decrease this rising problem? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Back off! Too many parents are hovering over their children and their grades. You finished your education, so now let your child complete theirs. Your child needs to learn how to do their own homework, make mistakes and find their own academic comfort level. Not all children are gifted, and not all children have a learning disability. The majority of kids fall right in the middle of the bell curve — and that's a fine place for them to be. Why not take some of the tension and pressure out of your home by allowing your children to find their own level?
2. Pull back on the overscheduling and allow your child to pick one or two activities that they really love to do. When I talk to children they often tell me that they just want some time to veg out and hang with friends. Not every minute of their day needs to be scheduled. Plus, kids get clear and creative when they have the time and space to do so.
3. Quit worrying so much about your child's future. We all made mistakes as kids and most of us have landed nicely on our feet. Give your child the chance to do the same thing. Grades are important, but not more important than their wellbeing. The college they attend does play a role in their future, but not nearly as much as their emotional health and ability to persevere. Extracurricular activities are only helpful if your child enjoys them and gains some benefit from them. Forcing them into clubs and sports just so their college applications look good is short-sighted and adds to your child's anxiety.
Here's the bottom line: happy children are productive children. Anxiety leads to more anxiety, worry, sadness, and sometimes even depression. It's not worth it. Your children only get one childhood... shouldn't it be a nice one?
You can reach her at Lisa@smartwomeninspiredlives.com
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