MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPISTS OF NEW YORK
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What Are We Doing To Our Children?
Little Nicholas, age 4, rushed downstairs to get ready to leave for preschool. He gobbled up his breakfast, grabbed his jacket and ran into the car. They were late again and his Mom was not happy. In the car driving to school, his Mom was telling him that he should be ready to leave preschool when she picked him up at exactly 4 PM because he had a piano lesson at 4:30 PM and they would just make it on time. After piano, they had to run to the store for groceries, pick up his sister from the sitter’s, and rush home to make dinner before Dad got home. Nicholas wished he could just watch his cartoons.I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. I’m a great place for you to tell a story and let your users know a little more about you.
Victoria, age 6, was picked up by her Mom from after- school-care and rushed to her friend, Emily, for a play- date. After her play-date, Victoria had to go for swimming lessons at the Y. After swimming, Victoria and her Mom would rush home, quickly make and eat dinner and get ready for the tutor. The tutor was coming to help Victoria with reading because her Mom felt she wasn’t reading quickly enough.
This type of minute by minute, hour by hour scheduling is now common practice with our children. They run from school to play-dates to soccer practice to music lessons to the library, only to be swept away once again to pick up a sister or brother. They operate on “full steam ahead” for
most, if not all, of the day. All this under the guise of providing a variety of stimulation for our children— exposing them to culture, music and many different activities. This is supposed to increase IQ scores, influence their social and emotional intelligence and help them to become balanced individuals in all ways.
What are the longer term effects of this behavior?
One longer term effect is that in fact IQ scores probably increase, childrens' social and emotional intelligence are probably fine tuned and in some ways, they probably are more balanced individuals.
Anxiety is also one possible long term effect. Children get used to and comfortable with operating at high speed. When it is time to rest and relax, they feel like something is missing. They feel uncomfortable. They get agitated, irritable and restless when there’s nothing planned for them. The outcome: More and more children are in therapy because of stress and anxiety. Some children in fact are even given medication to reduce their anxiety levels!
Another effect is that they are not afforded opportunities to learn coping skills. They don’t have time to explore their environment, to think about it, to experience its challenges. So if a stumbling block is put before them, they don’t know how to handle it. Often they give up trying to find solutions without even trying. They expect their parents to fix everything, to take care of everything.
Related to this is the feeling of entitlement that probably reaches its peak in adolescence. “All the other kids have a cell phone.” “Everyone in senior class is getting a car when they graduate.” “Why can’t I go to Europe the summer after I graduate? Jill’s parents are letting her go.” They expect to be taken care of. They have few coping skills to achieve what they want. They were exposed to a level of lifestyle that will be very difficult if not impossible for them to acquire themselves.
Another effect is drug use. Drug use is increasing with many teens self-medicating to reduce anxiety, to increase their self-esteem levels, to help them feel happier or not as depressed, to energize them to meet the day.
Some additional effects are that unemployment rates are high among young adults because they often do not want to work to achieve the material things that were always given to them by parents. Eating disorders are higher than ever before. More and more young people are entering therapy with anxiety and depression symptoms or with a general malaise—they just don’t want to do anything. There is no joy in living for them—no excitement about life. They don’t have anything to look forward to.
Because they were given “things” all along, they do not know how to delay their gratification. They don’t know what they want but they want it now.
What can a Parent Do?
Parents’ motivations in raising their children are generally positive. They want the best for their children. They want their children to feel part of the group and be contributing members of society. They want to expose their children toculture and social situations. But parents are also part of the larger society. And the larger society dictates the norms—the rules and regulations (both written andunwritten) that provide for social order. So if a good parent is defined by society as exposing children tomusic, to dance, to prep courses, to theatre, etc...wellthen, that is what the “good parent” will do.
Make sure your younger children have rest times regularly during the day.
Try not to have every minute of their day scheduled. Read them a book. Look through a magazine with them. Let them watch a movie. Let them be quiet. Let them get used to relaxing.
Don’t give them allowances simply because they exist.
Make their allowances contingent on chores getting done—taking out the garbage, loading the dishwasher, getting all homework done right after school, making their bed, bringing their wash downstairs, etc. Help them to realize that they have to work to achieve things.
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What Are we Doing to Our Children ...Con't
Don’t fix what isn’t broken.
If tutors are scheduled to assist the child in reading faster and the child is doing fine in school, s/he will begin to feel like something is wrong with him or her. Some children feel like they are forever getting “fixed.” They have to wear glasses to correct stigmatisms; they wear braces to correct out-of-place teeth; they wear back braces so they stand up straight. When they are a little older, they get their noses fixed so they look
better. Some are now going for liposuction to make them look slimmer or to remove imperfections. They go for all sorts of tests if they
are not speaking properly and then when nothing is found, they go for speech therapy….just to be sure. All of these corrections (even if necessary) help them to feel that something is wrong with them. Something is broken and it needs to be fixed. Try to be reasonable about what is being fixed.
Teach them to help you.
Ask them to get you things. Expect them to assist you with house projects. Teach them to paint, to clean, to attend to you when you are sick, to pick groceries up from the store, to bring the clothes to the cleaners, etc. These behaviors help them to focus on others—to get outside themselves. The helping behaviors could begin when the children are young. Children like to help; it helps them to feel a part of the family.
Let them find their own solutions.
One of the most difficult things for a parent is watching their child struggling with a problem, a challenge. Many times the parent jumps right in and helps or solves the problem. Try not to do that. Let the child think about the challenge for a while. Help them to explore different options and solutions but let them struggle for a bit. This is how they learn how to cope with life’s issues. It also teaches them self-confidence. They learn that they will be able to solve issues that confront them and that they will be OK in today’s world.
Group II ANGER MANAGEMENT Waiting List Forming Now......BEGINNING Summer, 2007 Newsletter HOW TO KEEP CALM AND TALK YOURSELF HAPPY
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