This Ain’t Your Mama’s Childhood
Are your kids stressed out? Could it be that you’re contributing, despite your best intentions? If you answered yes to either question, read on.
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Whipple believes parents today feel unsteady in their parenting. “They don’t trust themselves enough.”
One result, Spirito believes, is that basic rules of obedience are falling by the wayside. “We’re seeing a lot more debate between parent and child where there wasn’t years ago.”
Psychologist Frankie Klaff agrees.
“Families are more egalitarian,” Klaff says. “We need to remember that hierarchies exist in all forms of life.”
So how can you tell when your kid has maxed out? Professionals agree on clear signs. Children can become agitated or indifferent. They may withdraw from family and friends. They may seem sad or get physically ill. Their appetites or sleep patterns may change. They may lose interest in activities they enjoy or fall behind in school. They may begin to make uncharacteristically negative comments.
“These are red flags in general and could indicate various problems, such as depression, eating disorders, or a medical illness,” Traynor says. “Changes in behavior, and multiple symptoms or symptoms across multiple settings, warrant a closer evaluation.”
You can help kids avoid or cope with stress. Parents are a child’s first source of information, and because kids typically do what their parents do, parents must model good behavior by effectively managing their own stress and anxiety, Mullen says. That means, in part, avoiding stress by not over-scheduling everyone.
“The word that comes to my mind is ‘balance,’ as defined by that specific family, parent and child,” he says. “Parents must coordinate family schedules where children have time to simply chill and lounge without major stimulation.”
When possible, give kids control over of some aspects of the schedule, Traynor says. A limited number of choices helps a child feel more in control, but too many choices can feel overwhelming. “Keep routines as consistent as possible,” Traynor says. “Once a child is involved in an activity, try to minimize disruptions.”
Also respect a child’s sense of responsibility or obligation. A child may feel anxious, upset, or guilty about not being able to attend an important game because of illness or a family schedule conflict, Traynor says.
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