Pushy parents linked to kids’ anxiety

Emily Rivas writes about a new study that examines the connection between anxiety in kids and extracurricular activities.

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Photo: iStockphoto

It’s one thing to keep your children involved in extracurricular activities, but it’s another to keep them overwhelmingly busy. A U.K education expert says that overloading children with extracurricular activities could be what’s creating a new generation of “anxiety-ridden” adults, according to The Daily Telegraph.

Julie Robinson, the education and training director of the U.K.’s Independent Association of Prep Schools, told The Daily Telegraph that quiet reflection time and leisure are purposeful activities also. Conversely, so-called “tiger moms” who enroll their child into every activity possible might actually be doing their kid a disservice.

Read more: Does “superior” parent labelling give us an inferiority complex? > 

In a recent Maclean’s article, author and child therapist Jennifer Kolan says “hyper-parenting” is partly to blame for all the oversensitivity we’re seeing in children these days. It’s becoming common for kids to be referred to therapists for anxieties around relationships and academics.

According to the Globe and Mail, mental health care isn’t covered and openings on waiting lists could take up to years, but Ontario offers an alternative. Since 1971, Ontario has been the only province to offer youth mental health care services outside of the health care system — such as walk-in sessions at community-based mental health agencies and other affordable services.

My own Saturday mornings working as a part-time receptionist at a music school consists of collecting payments and occasionally rescheduling some lessons if need be. Time and time again, parents tell me they’re unable to reschedule their child’s lesson to a later time because they need to take them to dance, or to hockey, or karate, or tutoring. It’s all a part of keeping their kid busy.

Read more: Anxiety disorders in children >

When I was little, I remember my Saturday mornings involved waking up, eating breakfast and going to dance class. Sunday would be skating; Wednesday I’d have tennis lessons. Not once did my parents force me to do any of these activities, and maybe that’s why I never felt like it was too much. Now that I’m older, seeing a kid’s grumpy face at the music centre on a Saturday morning tells me they’re in for a very long weekend of activities.

It’s time to stop and think about why anxiety is striking children at such a young age, what this means for years to come, and how we might lay off a little and let our kids be kids.

2 comments on “Pushy parents linked to kids’ anxiety

  1. I’ve met kids with as many as 14 different scheduled lessons and activities a week.. there are only 7 days in the week for crying out loud! You mention Ontario offering an alternative mental health service. Will here’s an alternative – Don’t over-program your child! It leads to stress AND it’s been shown to stunt kids’ imaginative growth. When my brother and I were kids we were encouraged to choose 1 athletic, 1 academic and 1 artistic activity to pursue. That was plenty.

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  2. Enrolling children in tons of activities not only costs an arm and leg it also teaches them that we need to be busy. We can’t just sit down and play, be bored, watch a show, make a craft, be together. Maybe it’s the parent who thinks it’s best for their child, but each child is different. I loved playing ringette, but my oldest daughter isn’t the right age yet to enjoy the sport, if she even wants to play it. She’s happy going to Sparks once a week. It’s her thing. And the less running around I have to do is ok with me too.

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