Happy and healthy: The best for your child
Top therapist Marisa Peer looks at how to ensure your children do well without piling on the pressure
It is natural that parents want their children to be the best they can be but put them under too much pressure and the opposite can transpire, with children left stressed and feeling insecure. The rise of social media only compounds this, making them feel that they have to be perfect in every area of their lives.
One of the most positive things you can do is to avoid labelling your child. The minute they hear, ‘This is the really clever one’, ‘this is the sporty one’ or even, ‘this is the pretty one’ they hear that’s why you love them and if they don’t embody that label then your love isn’t available to them.
Children who are academic find it particularly hard to be labelled as ‘the gifted one’ because the more you say that the more they feel pressure to be clever. The best way to speak to your child is to say, ‘I love you because you’re you, you’re a great kid. I love the fact that you love learning, it’s wonderful how much you like to learn but that’s not why I love you’.
And parents also need to accept that children may lose interest in something they once loved. I have worked with so many children who feel tremendous pressure and actually feel unable to let their parents know that they’re no longer interested in the piano or the violin, or maths, so take the pressure off. Do not pressurise your children to achieve. Don’t talk to them when they’re age 11 about growing up to be a doctor or a lawyer, instead say to them that you want them to grow up to be happy and you don’t care what their career choice is as long as their choice makes them happy.
It is also very important not to give them too much to do. If you’re always taking part in after-school activities like maths or chess or swimming, they become unable to relax. Try and make the home a place where there is no pressure. When your children come back from school and they’ve done their homework, allow them to have some down time, watching a movie, going for a walk, cooking together, sitting around the table and talking. Do things that are not to do with academia or expectation.
“It is natural that parents want their children to be the best they can be but put them under too much pressure and the opposite can transpire, with children left stressed and feeling insecure.”
Balance is crucial in getting your child to work to the best of their ability. You could say to them that they can do an hour of homework and then have an hour of screen time. Then afterwards you can have some family time.
Take screens out of the room at night and lead by example, leaving your phones and tablets on the landing. Or have a Wi-Fi curfew for all at 10pm so everyone can relax for the evening. Relaxed and well-rested families benefit everyone.