Working with children takes every ounce of energy I have and then some and possibly a glass of red at the end of the day. Their enthusiasm never ceases to bring me right into their moment, of course it helps that my career is centred around children and their behaviour. After 20 years I still have nothing that concrete to give you, no magic answers. I see patterns, I see uniqueness and I see endless possibilities with each an every child. It all takes time, patience, tears, laughter and at times a hell of a lot of support. Sometimes the answer is simple, sometimes it is not so simple but we get there with lots of thinking outside the box.
So after 20 years one pattern I have really noticed and saddens me to say is on the rise is that children as young as four are showing signs of stress. Stress that is debilitating in exactly the same way it is with us grown-ups. The stress the children are demonstrating is showing up in their behaviour. Presenting itself in different ways in their behaviour from being exhausted at school, over emotional, meltdowns and general ‘misbehaviour’. Now still taking into account a child’s individuality in that one child may cope really well with four after school activities a week, not all will, this is not the so-called ‘norm’. In saying that the new ‘norm’ that I am seeing at work daily is that activities after school are increasing for each individual child. Some children are not coping with so much on their plate. I am loathed to subject children to labels, I see the child, their diagnosis gives me some ideas of how to assist them. For me to announce that children are stressed is a big deal. Children should not be portraying levels of stress due to over commitment.
“I’d like to make an appointment for you to see my 6-year-old daughter” “Sure I can come next Wednesday at 4pm” “Oh we can’t do Wednesday she’s swimming, Thursday she does gymnastics, Monday she has keyboard and dance and on Tuesdays and Saturdays she does netball” I feel the exhaustion for the child and the parent that is ferrying this child around. Observing children is a major part of what I do, I watch them at school and at their after school activities. The tears and the meltdowns in some activities demonstrates that the child is not that keen on said activity whether it’s tiredness, lack of interest or they simply do not enjoy it. Some lessons may run smoothly with them actively participating but by observing their general demeanour you can see that their mind is somewhere else.
I am all for children have interests, fun, competitions, learning through play but not at the level where it becomes detrimental to the child. The irony of getting your child up a 5.30am for a relaxing and mindful yoga lesson 5 times a week before school to have them dozing at their desk by 10am is some what losing the point of the mindful yoga class.
It is almost at the point where it sounds at times like a bragging right my son does this, that, this and that and something else and he is positively thriving. I beg to differ at how much the child is actually thriving and pessimistically from experience await the six-year-old to reach burn out. It concerns me too how the parents are feeling and coping with all this manic driving around after school.