Thursday, July 17, 2014

Are we Teaching Our Kids the Right Coping Skills?

Something happened to our generation. We have become a society over scheduling, stressed out, helicopter parents. We are so afraid to let our children outside unsupervised that we are scheduling them for a ton of activities to keep them from being bored.  What is so wrong with being bored?  From boredom comes inspiration; a chance to find out what sparks your interest.

As a child, my friends and I used to pretend to be teachers, scientists, gymnasts, even leaf people!  (Yes, I said leaf people) My point is; these days’ children are rarely seen engaging in imaginary play.  Instead, they’re inside watching TV, playing Minecraft or busy with the structured activities we've signed them up for.

I'm not sure what made us this way. Some blame it on the media and all its coverage on child abductions.  Others think it's a product of a society in which both parents need to work. I'm not sure which theory is correct.  However, I know that I've fallen into the trap myself.

Since my kids were in Pre-School I've signed them up for Soccer, Dance, Hockey, Baseball, Basketball, Football, Lacrosse, Tae Kwon Do, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Violin and Drums!  You name it, they've tried it!  But a few years ago, I realized something wasn't right.  It happened one day, during the summer.  I was so run down from carting my kids to all their activities that I decided it would be better for all of us to have a little down time and I didn't sign them up for any camps.  I pictured a relaxing summer where we I could lounge on my porch and read a book while my kids played in the yard all day.  However, it didn't work out quite that way because my kids didn't have a clue as to what to do with themselves!  I realized, then, that I had conditioned them to wait for the next activity and to follow the adults lead. In the process they forgot how to use their imagination!  I began to hear things like, "What are we doing today?" and   "Where are we going?"  When I informed them that they needed to figure out what to do on their own, you would have thought I said something horrible.  That's when I knew that something needed to change!

Just a few weeks ago, I had a great conversation with my child's school counselor.  She mentioned that she felt that the kids in her school did not have coping skills.  This sparked an intense conversation about whether she thought, as a professional, if this was typical behavior for 9 year old children or if it was a sign of our times.  Her opinion was that it was NOT typical behavior.  “By 9 years of age," she said, "a child should be able to work things out on their own”. 

It is my opinion that we are not giving our children enough opportunities to play among themselves and work out their issues.  Instead, from the constant supervision, we are conditioning them to “tattle” on each other.  I think we need to go back a few generations, and follow our Grandparents lead.  We need to give our children some space to use their imaginations and find out who they are.



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