We all know the signs and repercussions of our own exhaustion – careless mistakes, not being able to express your thoughts clearly, crankiness. You may very well like biting someone’s head off if asked to do something, anything.
If you’re a parent, do you know when your child is exhausted? And I’m not talking about the obvious drowsy heads like when you’ve had an 8-hour day at Disney.
Did your child wake up at an ungodly hour to accommodate your work schedule and then head to school, after-care, dance class, piano lessons, homework time, and finally, Dad’s house for dinner?
Think about your child’s weekly schedule. How much time a day is spent on instrument practice, sports practice, homework, religious instruction, and chores. As they get older, there is the addition of test prep, college applications, tournaments, and perhaps a part-time job.
What happens when Mom and Dad are divorced and there is back and forth between homes, possible step-siblings, and parental tension?
- Increased crying and tantrums
- Acting out in school
- Not getting enjoyment out of certain activities they used to love
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Telling you they are tired or bored when they’ve had enough sleep
- Increased fears
- Withdrawing into their rooms for too long
- Erratic sleeping or wanting you to sleep with them
- Losing interest in friendships
- Seeming to lose a sense of pleasure and vigor in general
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According to Dr. Hollman, enriching your child’s life with violin lessons or art classes is not the problem at hand. The problem is not giving our children enough time to just be kids– to play, act silly, build bunkers under the dining room table, and as they get older, hang with their friends. Dare we say—do what they want to do.
“We’re so goal oriented,” says Dr. Hollman, “everyone in the house needs time with no agenda. Additionally, parents need to curb their own anxieties about their children’s performance in their various activities.”
How should a parent handle their child’s extracurricular life? Here are six tips for listening to your child about their life outside of school:
- Don’t scrutinize and judge your child’s performance on their activities.
- Watch what you say about school activities, so you don’t push for a competitive edge too hard.
- Make sure they have free time to do what they want to do.
- Take a step back and don’t react immediately when you see puzzling behavior (“How can you know what to do about a misbehavior before you understand it?”)
- Collaborate with your child about which extracurricular activities they prefer.
- Value your child’s thoughts, opinions, points of view, and desires by listening carefully to them without interrupting until they are really finished with what they have to say.
Provided by Laurie Hollman, PhD. • lauriehollmanphd.com