October 18, 2016
The Over-Scheduled, Stressed-Out Child, Part 1
You want to give your child the world. The second the school bell rings, you start the engine on the express shuttle to piano lessons, soccer practice, tutoring, and other extra-curricular activities; all the while checking the blurry, perpetual-motion machine that is your child in the rearview mirror.
Between bouts as glorified chauffeur, you’re grinding away at a demanding job to put food on the table – and pay for all those activities. It’s keeping up with the Jones’…only you don’t have their nanny.
It’s exhausting. It’s a never-ending, high incline stress treadmill.
But it’s what’s best for your child, right?
You’ve been taught that the only way your child will excel is if you turn her over to be raised by the more-qualified “village” of experts, educators, institutions, and television. They have to know more than you do, right? You’re not a teacher or a doctor or a superhero …you’re just you. And sometimes, that just doesn’t feel like enough.
Don’t believe it for a second. What if I told you that YOU, the parent, are all the super hero your child needs?
You are enough. It’s not only okay to slow down the mad rush; your child NEEDS it. She needs you to slow down, bond with her, and just be. Sound too good to be true?
Recent studies in neuroscience show that early childhood events have a greater impact on how your child’s brain is wired than genetics. Let that sink in for a second. Science is telling you that you have all the power you need to enhance your child’s capacity for learning, success, and emotional development in the first few years of their life.
Studies prove that what children need most in their formative years is simple: parental bonding and a safe environment to explore. That means you don’t need a fancy degree or expertise. Your child doesn’t need to attend that $50,000 a year preschool. She just needs you to be there.
Your child is designed to be a tiny scientist. She wants to crawl, discover, and expand her world. Knowing that you are close by to check in helps create an environment of safety and reassurance. She will extend herself as far as she feels the ”invisible thread” connecting you will go.
Neurologically speaking, all your child’s brain needs is for you to get down on her level, make eye contact, give reassuring hugs and cuddles, and speak in complex sentences in-between expeditions. Other than that, your child is designed to do the rest.
Despite what you’ve been told, this can’t come from preschool, TV, nannies or teachers. There is no supplement for YOU. Studies I have read show the number one inhibitor of cognitive growth in children is stress. Guess what? Nothing stresses your child more than your absence. Cortisol levels in preschoolers are measured to go up exponentially every hour you’re away. That twinge you feel when she cries when you walk out the door? It’s there for a reason. That’s your parental intuition telling you what science is now proving: your child needs you there.
Don’t panic! I know you can’t be with your child 24/7, especially in today’s world. I was a working mother and I would never ask you to do something I couldn’t do! You have to put food on the table, I get it. The question is – if bonding is the first step to fostering successful, happy children, what can we do?
I’ll offer some tips on ways you can compensate for time you need to spend away from your child in my next blog post.