Help Your Children Chill Out
Overscheduling. Rushed families. High parental expectations. Goading from peers. Getting into the best college. Whew! Today's kids face enormous stress.
Kids must cope with all the issues, such as violence or global warming, that stress out adults. But they must also handle stresses added by their parents and the media, says Kenneth Ginsburg, M.D., F.A.A.P., author of A Parent's Guide to Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Your Child Roots and Wings.
"Parents want to raise perfect children who get into the perfect college and have perfect lives, and the media tell kids what they should look like and how they should act," he says. "As a result, many kids are riddled with anxiety and perfectionism. They're terrified of getting a B+. This stress is tough on kids who are trying to figure out who they are, and just as important, who they aren't."
Although you may help cause your children's stress, you can also help ease it:
Model good behavior. Show your children how you care for yourself by eating right, exercising, sleeping well, and dealing with your own emotions. "What parents say has value, but what they do is 10 times more meaningful," Dr. Ginsburg says.
Make sure younger children have time to play. It lets them think, dream, and relax.
Help kids build coping skills at an early age. Teach children to avoid some problems, let others go, or break tasks into small parts they can do more easily.
Redefine success. Let children know you want them to do their best and be kind, generous, creative, productive, and innovative adults. It's more important for kids to get into a college where they can thrive than a top-ranked university, Dr. Ginsburg adds.
"Parents want to raise children who have a repertoire of coping strategies so they won't have to resort to the dangerous quick fixes—drugs, alcohol, self-mutilation, eating disorders, and violence—that parents fear," says Dr. Ginsburg. Kids with good coping skills are more likely to become strong, independent adults who live balanced, fulfilling lives.