Filling up our child's life with one "enriching" experience after another may not always be good. They need free time to dream.
Galli cricket. Walks with grand-dad. Lazy afternoons with a library book. Homemade craft. Langdi, hopscotch, chor-police, hide-and-seek, sakhli. These were the things that had kept us occupied. Contrast this with what children do now. Dance class. Karate class. Painting class. Dramatics. Basketball session. Skating class. There is so much, so many activities keep a child busy.
To everything, there is a season
The world our children are growing in is very different from our own. Yes, every generation says the same, but it has never been as true. And the pressure to excel has never been this strong.
Starting from pre-school days, we parents try hard to take advantage of every opportunity, every coaching available to give them that leg up during school admissions. And then on, we enroll them in a variety of courses and classes (certificates are useful for college admissions too).
And a time for every purpose, under heaven
Besides school work, we want our children to experience all that there is available, juggling between school, homework and clashing timetables. Childhood activities, commitment levels and interest are controlled by parents. Play is in an enriching, adult supervised programme.
A time to build up, a time to break down
You find she has a natural aptitude to water. She enjoys her time in the pool, and you have even managed to teach her to float before she turns four. You enroll her for swimming classes and she quickly learns the basic strokes.
Boom. Then she suddenly does not want to go anymore. After the hysteria dies down, you blame the Coach for pushing your young child too much. Looks like your child isn't going to be swimming in the next Olympics after all.
A time to laugh, a time to weep
The only way children can express an opinion is by crying, resisting and refusing to "learn". These are warning signs to ease up. If she's avoiding the pool, ask her casually if she wants to play with her friends who are splashing around. Chances are, her face will light up as it used to, and you will see your water-baby again.
A time to gain, a time to lose
Every child needs free time. A time to dream, a time to play make believe, a time to scribble on a sheet of paper instead of having to create a masterpiece each time. Today, we have convinced ourselves that only productive play is good.
Time to kill, time to heal
Free, unstructured time is not time lost. Being bored is not a sign of poor parenting. Living in the tightly scheduled and structured world we have built for them, our children aren't getting the opportunity to be alone with their imagination. We are not giving them the opportunity to become what we want from them- resourceful and self-reliant.
Sometimes children can express their feelings directly, but most often they worry about being overruled. This could lead to stress, withdrawal, or hitting other children.
Signs that your child is getting over stresses include headaches, less interest in a favoured activity or increased dependence on parents.
Help your child evaluate what is producing the problem. Is it the activity (like swimming) or something associated with the action (not allowed splashing time)?
If the child has too little free time, help him/her change schedules so that there is time for laughter and the local park.
Well meaning parents can over commit a child at too young an age. Parents may want to examine their own time and schedules. Often our hectic lives stress our children about the things they are doing.
(lyrics- from Pete Seeger's song Turn, Turn, Turn)