Photo by Michael Morse

An experienced parent points out that sometimes they are so busy helping their children develop that they forget to let them grow independently.

Kids can be messy; they scream, cry, laugh, be funny, and play—and play some more. But when raising a child (especially with a disability), parents can get too absorbed in the “Whys” of what they are doing. Parents structure their play to stimulate language, work on their fine motor skills, and build their social skills. They are so focused on helping their kids develop through play that sometimes, they forget to let them play just for the sake of playing.

Parents want the best for their children. But what, exactly, is “the best”? Parents are worried that their kids are overloaded and being pulled in various directions, but they are also fearful that if they cut out some activities, their kids will be left behind and even begin struggling in school. They worry that their decisions could ultimately affect what universities accept the child.

It is a mistake to base your parenting decisions and choices around fear rather than love. That could cause you to like to be blinded by unrealistic goals rather than guided by your kid’s individual needs. Of course, you should give your kids opportunities to broaden their horizons and better themselves, but you also need to provide them with a childhood and not overload them with too much burden too soon.

Parents may miss the early signs that their kid may be struggling with burnout from doing too much. 

Here are a few things to contemplate to help you make changes.

1. Individualism. Each family is different, as is each kid within the family. Instead of signing your kid up for everything you think is “expected” or everything their friends are signing up for, help them identify particular skills, interests, or dreams and pursue activities based on these.

2. Live within your means. Each family is unique and has wants, needs, and resources, whether those resources are time, energy, or even money. Problems start to arise when families overtax the resources they have. Respect your kid’s time, energy, and interest resources, too. When they are signed up for too many sports, social events, activities, and school work, they may feel overwhelmed, and signs of stress appear.

3. Let go of comparison. When looking at your child’s strengths and interests, there is no need to compare him with other children. Comparisons often have a negative impact and can affect kids’ confidence and potentially ruin friendships. Instead, figure out your child’s reasons for playing a particular sport, and keep the level of training appropriate for that. One child may want to play a sport to stay fit and have fun, while another may be in it for training, thrill, and competition.

4. Quality Time. When you spend time with your kids, it is more effective to give solid full focused attention for short periods than being with them, but distracted, while doing other chores. Spending quality time communicating with your child makes it easier to pick up on any child’s struggles. Connecting with your child and giving them the space and security to open up and communicate any worries is the best gift you can give your child and your family. Reading and storytelling time is one perfect example of spending quality time with your kids. You can start with the Physical Activities Story Book on Mona’s Mitten by Kristina Orliczky. As this is a book to move to, you will find physical activities going along with the story on each page. Through her work as a licensed physical therapist and a certified practitioner of the gentle, functional Feldenkrais method, the author wanted to use this story to encourage physical activity in many children who spend too much time sitting. They start reluctantly strapped to car seats, high chairs, and strollers. Later, they sit in front of the TV or PC or with bent necks texting on their cell phones. By adding exercises to the pages of her book, she wanted to inspire children to have fun stretching their muscles and imagination.

Concluding Words

It is about balance and choosing the lifestyle best for you and your child. Be mindful of basing your decisions around love rather than fear to create the best possible environment for your child — and do not forget to have fun!

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