and Stress: Are You Pushing Your Child Too Hard?
By Mary F. Longo
a child appears to be very grown up and able to handle responsibility--he
or she may even seem like a "miniature adult." However,
parents may inadvertently treat their children as adults too early
and hurry them along in the process of growing up. Parents need
to watch for the possibility that their child has been given too
much responsibility and is being pushed too hard.
Most often during the middle childhood years, children feel pressures
from a number of sources. They may feel pressure from within themselves,
from parents, from teachers and peers, and from society. Children
must respond to and adapt to these pressures.
typically welcome some events, while others are more difficult for
them to take on. As children continue to grow, they may be more
able to express opinions and concerns about their activities. Early
in the middle childhood years, however, a child's commitment and
stress level often are controlled by a parent or adult.
school-age children will sometimes express their feelings directly.
Some children, however, may internalize stress and show it through
sadness, depression, or withdrawal. Other children may express feelings
of stress outwardly and begin to misbehave.
Stress is a part of life and growing up, but adults need to keep
a watchful eye on children and intervene when they sense something
is undermining a child's physical or psychological well-being.
are some signs that stress may be having a negative impact on a
child develops physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomach
The child seems restless, tired, and agitated.
The child appears depressed and will not communicate how he or she
The child seems less interested in an activity that was once very
important to him or her, such as baseball or dance class.
The child's grades begin to fall, and he or she has less interest
than usual in attending classes and doing homework.
The child exhibits antisocial behavior, such as lying and stealing,
forgets or refuses to do chores, and seems more dependent on the
parent than in the past.
Helping the Child Cope
Once a child becomes involved in an activity, it is important that
the parent be supportive, but not pushy. A parent can offer praise
and show interest by attending the activity, but allow the child
the opportunity to change interests based on his or her desires.
children are younger, they commonly need help balancing their activities.
As a parent, observe your child. Ultimately, you are responsible
for him or her. You can help by offering suggestions as needed and
guarding against becoming too committed to the activities to notice
a change in your child's behavior.
are some ideas to try:
your child evaluate activities that are producing a problem. For
example, is it a problem with the action itself or something associated
with the action, such as a friend who is there?
your child has too little free time, help him or her change his
or her schedule to make time for relaxation and play.
time together every day, even if it is only ten or fifteen minutes.
This shared time will help you better understand your child's needs
and give your child the confidence sometimes needed to tell a parent
he or she wants to quit an activity.
may want to examine their own schedules. Often a parent's hectic
schedule will cause a child to be stressed or nervous about the
things he or she is doing.
the child with his or her pediatrician. Occasionally, when a more
serious problem is present, the pediatrician may recommend additional
meaning parents and adults can sometimes be the source for children
being overcommitted at too young an age. Evaluate the situation
or activities that are producing a problem and work toward solutions
to help your child.
Elkind, David. The Hurried Child: Growing Up Too Fast Too Soon.
Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., New York, 1988.
Edward L., M.D. Caring for Your School-Age Child. Bantam Books,
New York, 1995.
F. Longo is an Ohio State University Extension Specialist, Department
of Family and Consumer Sciences, Columbus, Ohio 43210.