Go, go, go! The American lifestyle beckons us to move. Move quickly, move constantly. Don’t stop and think. Life is calling us. Go!
Maybe try something different. Stop right here, right now. Breathe in and breathe out and take a moment to contemplate how you are living your life.
What did you come up with? How do you feel? Are you overwhelmed or stressed? Maybe everything is A-OK! If it is…Awesome! You are ahead of the rest of us. If I was a betting girl, I would bet most of you are feeling pulled; pulled in too many different directions not knowing which end is up. So, if you feel this way, can you imagine how your child feels? Children are not meant to live adult lives.
You may say, “My children tell me they are happy being involved in four different activities that keep them in a perpetual state of motion,” but I would ask you to think twice about that statement. Review in your mind your children’s behavior because it may tell another story. Children who have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, children who cry easily and lash out in anger over the slightest offense, children who complain of frequent stomachaches and headaches are showing you, the parent, that their little bodies and minds are stressed.
Kids may tell you they are happy to eat chocolate cake every night for dinner because they like it but, as parents, do we feed it to them? No! It would make them sick! Or maybe I’m wrong and we do and that is part of the reason why our children are suffering. We can’t stand for them to be hungry so we feed them sugar. We can’t stand for them to be bored so we put them in front of the television or the tablet. We can’t stand for them to feel any pain so we hover at every difficulty. So is it about our children’s needs or our needs? If you have read my previous posts then you know I pontificate on the fact that anxiety and depression has increased by 30% in American teens. I don’t think I am wrong in saying our children are struggling. Living the American lifestyle is making our kids sick. You may say, “Danielle, you are way off base.” Go ahead. It is okay. You don’t have to agree with everything I write. It won’t be the first time or the last time that someone thinks I am missing the target. You may think, “Kids need stimulation; it develops their brain and they will be smarter.”
And I would say, “Yes, you are right!” I am not against activities. Each of my children is involved in one activity. I think it is important to find a skill they can develop and feel good about. However, I am also aware that it doesn’t matter how smart your little brain is if that same little brain is stressed out. As the adult, do you operate at your best when you are stressed out? Does plowing through life full-steam ahead calm your nerves? I know it doesn’t calm mine and, as a therapist, I am telling you that it doesn’t calm your children’s nerves either. Our children need someone to role model for them how to handle stress in a healthy manner. They don’t need another adult who doesn’t know their own healthy limits.
For over a year, my husband and I decided to bow out of extra-curricular activities. We wanted to focus on family dinners where we could engage in long talks with our children. Did it always work out? No. Many times, dinner was a battle zone over who ate what and how much and whether or not someone was looking at someone else in a way that someone didn’t like. Sounds exhausting and it was and continues to be when we have those nights but, at the end of the day, the five of us surround our grimy kitchen table and we put it all out there for show and discussion. Do I think my way is the only way or the better way? No. I just want parents to know they have options. Not everyone is living the American way of life. It is okay to give yourself and your family permission to take a break.
If something isn’t working in your family; change it. I am not simply discussing extracurricular activities. I am discussing the pace at which we exist! You are the parent. You set the pace for life. Are you content with your family’s speed?