Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Kids and Burnout

CNN ran this a while ago, Experts: Despite their energy, kids still at risk of burnout, POSTED: 3:01 p.m. EDT, September 2, 2006 by Lisa Porterfield, CNN.

This is just one of a backlog of stories that are piling up screaming for attention. This one folds nicely into a few of the previous posts so let's examine it.

Chronic stress can have severe consequences for children and adults, according to Dr. Kate Cronan, medical editor for KidsHealth.org. It can cause people to lose sleep, eat poorly, become irritable and fall behind at school or work.
How big a problem is it?

Forty-one percent of 882 children ages 9-13 surveyed in a recent KidsHealth poll said they feel stressed either most of the time or always because they have too much to do. And more than three-quarters of those surveyed said that they wished they had more free time.

Even Austin, who is comfortable with his packed schedule, said he wishes he had more time to "just hang out and play video games or read."

Overscheduling is a growing problem for American families, according to Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld, author of "The Over-scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap."

"A cultural phenomenon is taking place where parents are being told that the right way to raise their kids is to involve them in every enrichment opportunity possible, even if it means leaving the entire family feeling anxious and stressed," he said.

"The notion that education is a race has become quite prevalent and part of the conventional wisdom," said Elkind of Tufts University. And this race begins at infancy. Videos and software designed to give kids as young as six-months-old a leg up on the competition are being sold at toy stores around the country.

Experts suggest considering the motivations behind scheduling multiple enrichment opportunities for kids. Is it because the activities are enjoyable or is the sole purpose to give kids a competitive edge? Rosenfeld advises parents to "weigh the benefits of participation against the cost -- time, energy, logistical effort, stress and expense -- to you, your child and the rest of your family."


It seems to me the empirical evidence is all around us that the conservative generation of children are being severely short-changed of their childhoods. Right-wing pundits will insist that getting tougher with kids and working them harder is what's wrong but these people increasingly sound like snake oil salespeople selling child flagellation as the key to enlightenment.

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