Parents want what’s best for their children. Sometimes that translates into overscheduled kids and then the whole family is stressed out. If kids don’t have any down time, there’s a real risk for depression and self-destructive habits. Our society is competitive, and the burden is often felt on children the most. There are ways to encourage them to do their best without going too far. Here are some signs that parents might be pushing their kids too hard. And some solutions for how to stop.
Signs of stressed kids
Lack of concentration
Overscheduled children often find themselves overwhelmed. They stare into space and have trouble focusing on what they’re doing.
Spending excessive amounts of time at something
A common signal among stressed-out kids is working past normal hours on school assignments or sports. Are they skipping meals? Getting up unreasonably early or going to bed too late? This may be the start of more compulsive behavior such as erratic actions or hyperactivity. Any kind of extreme behavior change amongst children should be a red flag.
This is when children start keeping to themselves in ways that are drastically different. Wanting more alone time is normal, especially among teenagers. But if the withdrawal seems to be alarming or quickly getting worse, that’s a sign they are trying to cope with something.
Children, like all of us, can use food as a coping mechanism. Overeating or binge-eating is cause for concern. Eating less is also a way of controlling something when everything else feels out of control.
Drug or alcohol use
When matters aren’t resolved, some parents might find evidence that their children are using drugs or alcohol. Please consider professional help.
Is a previously high-achieving child seeking out new friends who don’t achieve as much? Some students rebel by changing social circles. They seek comfort in new groups that don’t put as much pressure on them.
Young people are growing and changing. Developing brains and hormonal fluctuations can trigger emotional episodes. That’s normal. However, if they are constantly throwing temper tantrums and acting out in unreasonable ways, there might be a problem. This can include physical aggression such as biting and hitting, or verbal aggression like name-calling. They also might lack patience with everyday activities.
Sleep-related issues might be a sign that something is wrong during the day. This includes walking and talking in their sleep. They wake up distressed or traumatized. This might also manifest itself into wetting the bed, especially with older children. It’s important not to shame them. They may be embarrassed to discuss this issue, so parents should use care when approaching them about it.
What can parents do instead of pushing their kids?
Keep it positive
Praising or complimenting children goes a long way. Help them to see the good inside and they’ll gain confidence to succeed. Sometimes sandwiching constructive criticism between two positive statements can cushion a blow. They leave the conversation feeling like they have the skills needed to tackle what’s challenging them.
Communicate with teachers
If parents are concerned about grades, they can contact their children’s teachers for advice. Teachers might provide context. For example, they may point out that a particular subject is challenging for many students. They can also provide some solutions.
Cooperate with kids
If a child is stressed out, he or she might have some ideas about how to fix it. Most kids really want a say in their own lives. They need practice making good choices. Therefore include them in the decision-making process. Ask what they want and how they’re feeling. Listen when they suggest solutions.
Model good behavior
Parents are wise to watch what they say about themselves out loud. Younger ears are always listening. They must also treat coaches, referees and teachers with respect. If a child was unfairly treated at school or on the field, parents can take the person in authority aside and discuss the issue privately.
Monitor online behavior
Social media posts by parents pushing their kids and focusing on their achievements can back up on the children themselves. They feel the pressure parents are putting on them. Moms and dads who wrap up their self-worth in whether their children score a goal or earn a particular grade are asking for trouble. Is this drive for success for the children? Or the parents?
Get a life
Parents should feel encouraged to achieve for themselves. Their children are not here to act as extensions of their moms and dads. Life is rough enough. The pressure to live for others is unfair. If parents work on themselves, enjoy goals and hobbies of their own, that takes pressure off children. It also shows them healthy ways to feel good about themselves at any age.
Help or get help
If parents are able to tutor or coach their children, in a healthy and productive way, that’s great. If it’s clear that these sessions are counterproductive, hire a tutor or trainer. Professionals can help frazzled parents by taking over in areas where they’re not helping. Hire those who have the experience needed to improve study or athletic skills in kids.
There is also no shame in seeking couples or family therapy. If moms and dads are arguing about the achievements of their children, this doesn’t help lift the fog of pressure from the household. A skilled professional helps introduce healthy coping mechanisms and ways to communicate. This trickles down and helps children as well.
Go on date nights
Parents benefit from periodically getting out of the house together. Date nights help them reconnect.
Schedule down time every day
Even if it’s just a few minutes each morning or evening, allow kids to relax. They may choose to chat with friends, watch television, read a book or meditate. Let it be up to them.
In conclusion, feeling stressed from time to time is normal. Children can learn at an early age how to effectively deal with these feelings and make healthier choices. Parents pushing their kids too hard should know it’s never too late to adjust. Improve to ensure kids feel better about – and do better in – school and sports.