The real-deal effect it has on parents and why we should concentrate on what kids actually need.
Perhaps it’s because we have so much information at our fingertips to “know better”, and that’s why we insist on the best for our kids. Or maybe its social media sharing culture that incessantly projects a “grass is greener” narrative on us, reminding us of our failures to reach a certain benchmark. Either way, as parents, we are constantly made to feel that what we do is not good enough, on top of all of the inherent stress that accompanies parenthood to begin with. It’s no wonder that – in 2020 – parents are more emotionally drained perhaps than ever before.
The sleepless nights, the pressure on our kids to perform, dreading that teacher email or phone call. The truth is, parenting has always been difficult, and I feel we all respect our parents much more once we become parents ourselves, but there is this new added pressure that has come out of the digital revolution that as parents, and therapists, we’re still trying to navigate.
No other generation of parent has had to worry about the seemingly innumerable ways to monitor devices so our children are not targeted by sexual predators or cyber bullies. Outdoor play and imagination used to be a right of childhood, and is now becoming extinct, giving way to the over-scheduled demands of making sure our children can speak a language, stay focused with martial arts and express themselves creatively with art. Having one or two activities a week is a rarity these days, with most kids being booked until after dinner time.
Speaking of dinner time, how often do our families eat together anymore? Some weeks it is hard to even sit down to a meal, let alone make a healthy one and have our kids eat it. We want our children to eat healthy, nutritious meals, but even on the days we feel we “won”, there is another article on Pinterest or story on Instagram that shows someone else’s children growing a garden, making a salad and eating the whole thing. And thus the perpetual wheel of shame continues.
Referring specifically to brain health, some things are important, and there is no hiding that the food we put into our children has a direct impact on their behavior. I am suggesting however, that we give ourselves a break. We may have to rely on grandparents and caregivers at times, and we also have to make sure that we set time to refill our own cups so that we are not feeling overwhelmed.
I am here to say that you are doing a great job. No matter what you are doing or posting about, parents need to support one another. We all believe in different parenting philosophies, and we are all from a different place, but kids are kids and it is difficult (and surprisingly stressful) to manage them. Whether you’re the granola mom, the laid-back mom or the high-strung mom, you all rock. Even moms that don’t fit in those categories, you rock too!
Here’s the deal, I truly feel there is a lack of education and support for what is important for our children, and we feel pressure from all angles to do various things to help them be “successful”. But, what’s the secret to having a healthy brain and an enriching childhood? Let them be children! Let them play outside everyday. Don’t be scared of their boredom, in fact, let them fight through it and use their imagination.
What else can you do? Cut back on the stuff you don’t need and minimize on the toys. They are going to play much better. The true trick to all of this? When you do this – truly cut back and minimize – you are going to feel better, too. When you don’t have your kids whining at you because they don’t know what to do, when you don’t have to fight all day every day about screen time, or eating vegetables, or doing homework or getting ready for soccer … when you take away some of that battle, you are going to enjoy your kids more, and they are going to be less needy. Working them through this will help eliminate your guilt because they are going to truly seem less stressed and happier, and with less pressure on yourself you may be able to enjoy parenthood the way you deserve to.
Katie Gately, Founder, Behaved Brain Wellness Center