Today I’m sharing an exclusive post from Michele Kambolis, author of Generation Stressed. I absolutely LOVE this piece because it eloquently addresses something that has been bothering me for a while. I have always believed that summer is a time to be a kid, have fun, explore and relax. Yet more and more, it seems like parents are robbing kids of the summers we had as children. We’re over-scheduling them, sending them to summer school, printing our workbooks that are longer than War & Peace and basically just taking away the care-free fun of summer. In our efforts to avoid “summer slide” and other buzzwords du jour, are we creating a generation of totally stressed out kids?
By Michele Kambolis, author of Generation Stressed
Intuitively, we know that summer shouldn’t really be about jam-packed schedules, extra tutoring and high-end sports camps designed to help kids make the rep or gold star teams.While all kinds of parents have boycotted the pressure to keep up with a cultural agenda of status, cut-throat competition and the achieve at all cost mentality, others look back on summer wondering just where things went wrong. As the summer months wind down and we begin making plans for the school year, it’s worth asking whether our child is being given the right to their childhood, filled with curiosity, connection and play, or whether adulthood pressures are crowding out their youth.
So, what has happened to our children’s natural language of play, where toys and games are their emotional palette? Children naturally need and want to engage through movement, fantasy and games, making play their greatest tool for growth and connection. Without play, children are robbed of the ability to process, explore and make sense of a difficult and confusing world, and to express their experiences within it. Simply put, a child without play is a child who cannot thrive.
Yet, many children are checked out, more easily bored than ever, unable to fill the time between their periods of busy-ness. Today, when most children enter my counselling room, they seem disoriented and unsure of what to do with the toys, puppets and endless art supplies. It isn’t long before they ask, “Do you have computer games here?” They seem less curious; instead, they’re waiting to be told what comes next. Their wide-eyed wonder has been replaced by the vacant stare of screen time.
If children could fully articulate their feelings, they’d say they are too pressured, overwhelmed and desperately need more of us. Our children are calling on us to show up – leading the way towards expansiveness and deep connection. It’s time for a radical shift away from our hurried, worried, screen-filled life. And with a commitment to re-engage our children with wonder and expansiveness, where there is endless time to play, we ourselves will naturally invite the kind of growth and joy we deeply want for them. When parents ask what activities your child is signed up for this fall, you may just tell them, “We’ve signed up for a balanced life.”
Michele Kambolis (MA) is a registered Child and Family Therapist and Parent Educator dedicated to raising awareness about mental health issues. She is currently pursuing her PhD program in Mind-Body Medicine at Saybrook University. Her book and webinar, Generation Stressed, has received widespread praise from therapists, families and media alike. Kambolis writes a popular weekly parenting advice column, Parent Traps, for The Vancouver Sun.