A tip of the hat today to friend and fellow busy mom Heather, who - during a late evening caffeinated tea rush - sent me a link to this article from Sunday's Washington Post titled "For Some Busy Kids, It's All Good."
"A new wave of research into the lives of middle-class children bucks conventional wisdom and concludes they are not the overscheduled, frazzled generation that many believe them to be," is the first, very reassuring paragraph of the article. The piece is based on two new studies which show that only a small percentage of kids are truly overscheduled , and suggest that "organized activities are linked to positive outcomes in school, emotional development, family life and behavior."
University of Maryland researcher Sandra L. Hofferth told The Post that she had started her project "with a pretty solid belief that lots and lots of activities are bad for children." "We just don't find that the children who are more active are more stressed," she says. (Hofferth, incidentally, was the author of a wide-ranging, long-term and oft-quoted research project released eight years ago, called "Changes in American Children's Time: 1981-1997".
But before you go signing up your kids for additional piano and chess lessons - this new research shows there IS stress to be found in busy families -- and it's being felt by parents. DUH! You don't have to be a scientist to understand this correlation - just need look at your own family calendar.
My son loves his four-times a week swim team workouts (plus monthly meets), guitar lessons, and soccer practices and games. And my daughter adores her two weekly dance classes, soccer practices and games, guitar lessons and even her tutoring. Who wouldn't?
But it's the schlepping to, organizing of, and the paying for all these activities that's causing the stress. And the vessel for all this stress is the parent most often in charge of such things --- which in the majority of American families is dear ol' mom.
The WaPost article points out that Hofferth's claim and upcoming book is controversial among the childhood health community. Among the doubters, the American Academy of Pediatrics which two years ago warned that "a hurried lifestyle could create anxiety or contribute to depression for some children." (BTW - you can read a discussion of this issue on The WaPost's On Parenting blog.)
In the limited time I had to actually dig a little deeper into this issue -- I came up with my own conclusion: Both theories are correct. Why? Because hurried and hassled parents are passing the stress off to their kids by yelling at them for the smallest things on the morning after a busy weekend in which one child performs fantastically at an interminably long swim meet - and the other child makes a major break-through during her weekend soccer match located at the worst field in the City with NO parking. And then, to add to the stress of it all, feels guilty all day about yelling at her kids!
Stressed? Ya think?
So again, thanks to Heather for forwarding me the article, getting me to think more deeply about how I manage my families various activities and how my stress is trickling down to my two, still very impressionable yet resilient children.
See you at pick-up.