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Little adults: Are we allowing our children to grow up too fast?

With all the expectations placed on kids these days, it is easy for parents to treat their kids like "little adults."
By stockimages, published on 26 October 2012 Stock Photo - image ID: 100108549

We expect a lot from our children. They often have schedules that are comparable to ours as busy parents; including school (add in homework), sports, clubs/other extra-curricular activities, and not to mention a social life. Add to that mix, the many difficulties that kids these days face; competition in academics and sports, peer pressure, bullying, expectations from parents to get good grades, and college pressure.

All that we hope for, as parents, is that our children's experiences and accomplishments will help them become well-rounded, smart and well-prepared adults; and rightfully so. We all want our children to be successful, but are we over-scheduling and allowing our children to become burnt out? Are we essentially turning them into “little adults;” that are stretched too thin? Worst of all, are we sacrificing their childhoods for fear that their futures will be jeopardized?

It can certainly be easy to forget that they are “just kids” especially when they begin to think at higher levels. As advanced as children are in this day and age, they do not function like “little adults.” They do not have the same set of coping skills, emotional intelligence or cognitive functioning that an adult does. As parents we need to make sure that we are keeping our expectations in check, or we risk our children growing up too fast, and missing out on the things that all children should experience.

According to Dr. Robyn Silverman child/teen development specialist, there are five ways in which we are treating our children like adults: 1. Inside like adults - Kids are not playing outside in parks and on playgrounds like they used to, for a variety of reasons. Children need outside play for physical, social and cognitive development. 2. Gym-goers like adults - Instead of playing outside, children are going to the gym. It is one thing if a family is using the gym for swimming during the winter months, but children should be outside running and playing whenever possible. According to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, last year 1.3 million children between the ages of six and 11 were members of a health club. 3. Medicated, like adults - children are being prescribed medications that were developed and meant for use by adults. There are no long-term studies on the effects of many of these drugs on children. Additionally there is a big concern that these children could end up taking these medications for the rest of their lives. This is very detrimental for children's vulnerable developing brains. According to Dr. Darshak Sanghavi, Pediatric Cardiologist at the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine, “Children’s bodies are very different in how they metabolize or handle drugs…their livers and kidneys are different. In many cases it’s about the same if they’re taking Tylenol or asthma medication. But for other drugs like statins that might have some impact on their endocrine system, we just really don’t know. I feel unsafe simply saying children are little adults in this case.” 4. Waxed, plucked, and primped like adults – According to the New York Post, the newest trend with pre-teens, even kids as young as six, is waxing the hair from their bodies. Stawczyk of the New York Post predicts that in ten years, waxing children will be like “taking them to the dentist or putting braces on their teeth.” 5. Fed, like adults – We have all seen it, the meals on the children's menus that are served at restaurants. The portions contain enough food for a full grown man to consume; certainly too many calories for a child to eat during one meal.

How can we ensure that we are not “those parents” that are pushing their kids too hard and expecting too much? We have to know our children well, because every one is so different. Some kids deal well with pressure and are motivated by it, others buckle under pressure and become stressed out. Know your child; keep the lines of communication open and pay attention to the non-verbal signs they are giving you. Make sure she sets aside time to have fun with her friends and to just be a kid. Remember, she has the rest of her life ahead of her to work, but she will never get her childhood back.