January 15, 2016


We recently, 1-2-16, read a startling article in the NY Times, called: Is the Drive for Success Making Our Children Sick?" by .  The take-away from this article is that stress at school is making kids sick: "54 percent of students  (middle and high school) showed moderate to severe symptoms of depression. More alarming, 80 percent suffered moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety. At the other end of the age spectrum, doctors increasingly see children in early elementary school suffering from migraine headaches and ulcers. Many physicians see a clear connection to performance pressure. 'I’m talking about 5-, 6-, 7-year-olds who are coming in with these conditions. We never used to see that,' says Lawrence Rosen, a New Jersey pediatrician who works with pediatric associations nationally. I’m hearing this from my colleagues everywhere.'” (1)

YIKES...this is very scary and clearly can affect our families.  So, what can we do, to help ameliorate the situation?  We understand the need for children to get their homework done, and for them to successfully be able to participate in their school activities. We personally find some of the homework to just be busy work, but other parts are necessary for growth.  What can we do to help our kids succeed without playing into all the stress? 

First and foremost, be supportive...by helping with spelling lists, short stories, math (if you can still do it), etc.
Then, find some activities that are just plain fun!  No pressure, no judgment, no stress for them or us!  Although some of the activities may require some planning, others can be just be done on the spur of the moment. Some of the things we have found to be successful, and fun, are:
  • Plan and cook a dinner for the family (even if they may not be the most balanced of meals, it will be THEIR meal).
  • Take a nature walk and look for specific items according to the season.  Take your cell phone (or theirs) and photograph what you see, and perhaps the photos can become thank- you notes for other occasions.
  • Take a ride on the local public transportation system, if it's close by.  Bring a pad of paper, and count how many people get on and off the transport.  How many are wearing hats, how many wear glasses, how many are using a cane or walker?
  • Get a library card, and check out 1 book that the child wants, either to be read to or to read themselves.  Mark the due date on a calendar, so the book get's returned and you don't have to pay for it.
  • Start a 500-1000 piece puzzle (less for younger kids), that can be started and continued when you are there or not.  Find a good place to keep it so it doesn't get destroyed.
  • Play games- there are only about a million card games: some packaged like UNO, or some using a regular deck (crazy eights, etc.).  You can teach new ones or use the old tried and true.  This applies to Checkers, Chess, Sorry, and other favorite board games.
Another important finding, is that children need physical activity to release some of their stress (2).  Although many of the suggestions we've listed above are "inside" activities, here are some "outdoor" (climate permitting) stress relievers.  Things to keep around for these include: outdoor chalk, jump rope, frisbee and other sports type equipment:
  • Hopscotch
  • Handball
  • Catch
  • Swings, slides and climbing things at the park or in the backyard
  • Run around the back yard, the park or just up and down the block. If you want, you can time the kids.
  • Dance to their favorite music, or your, using your cell phone as the "boombox"
  • Make up a cheer for your favorite teams
  • Boce ball, if you have the room and the equipment
  • Play "I Spy" outdoors.

These activities, are as good for us, as they are for our great-grandchildren.  We can use less stress in our lives, as can they.  Here's to a stress-reducing, peaceful New Year.

(1) http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/03/opinion/sunday/is-the-drive-for-success-making-our-children-sick.html?_r=0