Let kids be kids

By Melissa Martin

As a child therapist, I am noticing an increase in young children with worry, anxiety, and panic. An anxious child will become an anxious adult without intervention. I am noticing more children with perfectionism and fear of failure. I am noticing more children with interrupted sleep cycles and psychological stomach aches.

Erika Christakis is the author of the best-selling book “The Importance of Being Little: What Young Children Really Need From Grownups.”

Christakis was interviewed for a 2019 article on the website www.edutopia.org. “Adultification is the failure to see the world from a child’s perspective…We all basically know this is a problem, but it’s hard to break the cycle. We need to step back and see the world from a child’s point of view. We see their development through an adult’s eyes, imagining that we couldn’t possibly learn anything from an hour digging in a container of mud, so it must be time to whip out the math worksheet! It boggles the mind how little outdoor time and gross motor play many young children have in their days.”

Rush-rush-rush. Parents, caregivers, and teachers need to slow down and allow children the time to enjoy the moment and experiential activities. “Hurry up! It’s time to go. We’ll be late!” shout parents. Life becomes a hectic routine of go-go-go.

Activities. Sports, dance lessons, music instruction and other learning and creative opportunities expand the mind and body. However, too many activities put pressure on a developing brain and body. “The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister” is a book (age group: 4-8) by Linda Lodding. Her well-meaning, busy parents have packed her after-school hours, turning Ernestine into the over-scheduled poster child of today.

Homework. For children prone to anxiety, too much homework produces more worry and anxiety. For children prone to perfectionism, too much homework leads to procrastination or fear of failure. After an 8-hour day of school, do kids benefit homework? Do school systems need to balance and limit the amount of homework? Do parents need to verbalize concerns to school boards about too much homework?

Let Our Kids Be Kids was launched in 2016 by parents who’ve had enough… enough of endless testing, enough of teachers not being trusted to teach, enough of driven, dull, dry curriculum aimed solely at passing National Curriculum Tests (SATs). letthekidsbekids.wordpress.com.

“Screaming at children over their grades, especially to the point of the child’s tears, is child abuse, pure and simple. It’s not funny and it’s not good parenting. It is a crushing, scarring, disastrous experience for the child. It isn’t the least bit funny,” is a quote by Ben Stein.

Play. “Today, many children do not have enough play opportunities at home because of TV, videos, and the computer. They interact with toys that are not conducive to building imagination and interesting dramatic play themes. In many instances, pretend play with siblings and neighborhood children is not available. There are more adult-organized and directed activities than in the past. They tend to be in groups of children of the same age rather than in mixed-age groups, which would include older children who could act as “play mentors.”…There is a growing body of research that shows a link between play and the development of cognitive and social skills that are prerequisites for learning more complex concepts as children get older. www.scholastic.com.

Play reduces stress. Moving the body, pretending, and being creative are outlets for stress. Have you ever met a child that didn’t want to play?

Outdoor play. “Ollie Outside: Screen-Free Fun” is a book (ages 4-8) for kids by Michael Oberschneider. Too much screen time! How can Ollie get his family to shut off their gadgets and play together outside? Technology is taking a toll on family communication and togetherness. Limit screen-time for kids and for parents.

Nature. “Never before in history have children been so plugged in-and so out of touch with the natural world,” proclaims Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods.” His book presents cutting-edge research showing that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development: physical, emotional, and spiritual.

Fun and laughter. Kids need time to be silly, carefree, and funny. “There’s nothing more contagious than the laughter of young children; it doesn’t even have to matter what they’re laughing about,” says Criss Jami.

The takeaway from this column is for adults to slow down in this busy world we’ve made and let kids be kids.


By Melissa Martin