Parenting is tough. We all want the best for our children, don’t we? We want them to grow up well, to excel in school and sports and get into a good college so they can support themselves someday.
We have all probably told our kids the classic “work before play” rule. But how much work is too much for a child? Or is your child a couch potato who hardly helps around the house?
There are many pressures that kids face — themselves, teachers, coaches, parents, peers and society. Making sure these pressures don’t become overwhelming and finding the right balance between work and play is key for a healthy childhood.
Play is vital for a healthy childhood. Playing lets kids create their own self-identity. It teaches them emotions, problem-solving skills, creativity, and most important, it is a source of happiness.
Sadly, unstructured play has decreased over the generations, especially when it comes to time spent playing outdoors. Structured activities such as piano lessons, sports, and Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts may seem great on a resume in years, but the majority of these activities should be picked by your child. Unstructured play should be the top priority and it should be as often as possible.
Sports are a fantastic activity for kids because they are able to exercise often and make friends. However, when sports get to the competitive level, the fun can be pushed aside and stress can rise for a child. There are many pressures that can occur here, such as playing well and making a certain team.
To decrease this stress, make sure your child has one day off of a sport a week and two to three months off of training per year. It is crucial to make sure your child gets 60 minutes of exercise a day, but too much exercise can lead to mental and physical exhaustion or injuries. Remember, they are kids! So they should be having fun a majority of the time.
School is like work for your kids. They need some free time after school to unwind. If your child comes home and does homework until bed, that is too much work. If your child comes home and does not do any homework, that could be too little work.
Try to find a system that works well with your child. For example, they can play right after school and then do homework after dinner. Having a set time will ensure that the child knows what is expected and when it should be done.
Getting involved in your child’s school is very beneficial for their education. Try to make every conference and schedule meeting times with a teacher if your child is struggling in a subject.
Chores are a way to teach your children responsibility and cleaning expectations. WebMD has a fabulous article about age-appropriate chores and healthy expectations you should have for chore completion.
If these pressures get to be too much to handle, your child may start to act differently. Here are some signs that show your child may be having too much work and stress on their shoulders:
- If their grades begin to fall, they don’t want to attend school, or they stop completing their homework.
- They start having physical symptoms of stress, such as headaches or stomach pain.
- They often seem tired, agitated, or restless.
- They seem depressed, and they’ve stopped communicating or they are communicating less.
- They are less interested in the sport or activity that is stressing them out.
- They start to show signs of antisocial behavior like lying, stealing, or refusing to do chores.
- They have temper tantrums or fits of crying.
Open communication between child and parent can make all of the difference in stressful situations. If something seems wrong, ask your child what specific activities are bugging them. Ask them if they would like more free time and what they would like to do during that free time.
It is also important to look at your own schedule. Is your schedule hectic? Have you made your child’s schedule too full?
Play is one of the most important things for a child. Work is also significant, but children should not have a lot of stress on their shoulders while growing up — leave it for when they get older.
Talk to your child, teachers and pediatrician if you have any further concerns about your child having the proper balance of work and play. You only get to be a kid once!