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Our children and school stress

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Remember the school days of our childhood? Fun filled, challenging, constructive, occasionally difficult, exciting, and harrowing at times yet mostly a normal experience filled with learning, growing, and experiencing. The point being, not a huge amount of daily stress related to achievements. The American culture now screams high achiever, success, and money. Hence our kids are pushed to be the best at not only what they love but at everything they do or decide to try. Sure it’s a great thing for our kids to be encouraged and cheered on to do their best and excel, however when the stress is overwhelming and there is no leeway given for falling short or mistakes, this can be devastating for our offspring.

When we were children we were allowed to make mistakes, get tired, and sometimes just not have the desire to complete a task. Although our parents may have been temporarily disappointed they still encouraged us and were instrumental in helping us accept our shortcomings while inspiring us to find other interests and areas we were more adept in. A bit of stress regarding school work and activities is healthy for humans. It means something is important to us and we want to succeed and do a great job so we get worried about upcoming exams, tryouts, and projects. That normal amount of stress gives us the edge we need to push forward and do our very best. However too much stress inflicted either by ourselves or others can have the exact opposite effect, and can cause incapacitation.

One of the major causes of this, seen in parent-child relationships, is that parents want to see their children become more successful than themselves, and able to achieve more. The pressure is on parents as well in this over achiever environment which teaches us that 2nd place is losing and that nothing less than excellence will be tolerated. The world we live in is so competitive that parents have been convinced that if their children don’t achieve the highest grades, dance the best, skate the most accurately, get the most home runs, or are not accepted into the best educational programs in school they won’t have the opportunity to make much of their lives in the future. Although we want our kids to be the best they can, in all ways, not just academically and talent wise, we have to realize that they can’t be perfect in all aspects. This level of expectation will only mean disappointment for both the parent and child. We as parents need to keep in mind that sustained excellence is unnatural and hence won’t last.

What we can do is encourage them and be sure they are happy with their results and what they are attempting to achieve. If they are only doing it to satisfy us this won’t stand the test of time, and they won’t be truly happy in the end. The key is listening to your child and allowing them the opportunity to share their feelings, concerns, and desires with you. Be prepared, their goals may not specifically match yours but they are their own person and have their own goals and this needs to be welcomed and allowed to flourish.

Other ways we can help relieve tension in our children include the following:

  • Regular communication both ways and casually discuss expectations
  • Assisting with homework and projects and staying positive
  • Helping them with activities and sports that are important to them while expressing to them that fun is a big part of participation as well
  • Keeping them on a schedule and not overloading them with extra-curricular activities
  • Spending quality time and allowing them to decide on how this time is spent

Remember an average amount of stress is normal but when it turns to distress it becomes non-productive.

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