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Are we stressing out our kids?

Stressed out, over-scheduled, hurried: These words are often used to describe children these days.

By Marian Wilde , GreatSchools Staff

Are we unwittingly lowering the quality of life for those we mean to nurture? Are we degrading childhood by demanding ever more of our children? Many parents worry about these questions, as students report that they're feeling stressed out.

"I have been really stressed because of the homework that is being assigned," a middle-school student from Utah recently wrote in an email to GreatSchools. "In pre-algebra, we get at least three pages of homework. In English, we get at least one page and a reading assignment, at least 30-50 pages in our books. Then there is science, five-six pages are assigned all days except Friday. In Utah studies, we get one page with the option of extra credit, which is another page. In French, we have to do two to three pages of verbs in the French dictionaries. In Spanish, 80 flashcards are assigned two days before the test. As you can see, I don't take any extra activities because I don't have time!"

Stress on the rise

"Everyone has their own way of measuring stress, depression being one measure," says Denise Clark Pope, author of "Doing School" How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed-Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students. "But the consensus is that there are more stressed-out kids."

One recent study from the Stanford School of Medicine indicates that the number of children, ages 7-17, treated for depression more than doubled between 1995 and 2001.

What's causing the stress?

From kindergarten through high school, the causes of childhood stress are numerous. One of the most commonly cited is standardized-test stress, which starts in first-grade in many states.

High-stakes tests, such as the TAKS in Texas and the FCAT in Florida, are particularly stressful, for students and teachers alike. Students in certain grades must pass these tests to advance to the next grade. In Florida, children as young as 8 years old face the prospect of being held back if they fail the test. Whether you are for them or against them, high-stakes test create considerable stress.

And while experts are debating whether homework loads are in fact heavier now than in the past, many agree that it is being assigned at an earlier age than before.

Another source of school-related stress occurs in high school where more students are taking more rigorous classes, such as Advanced Placement (AP) classes offered by the College Board. In the past 25 years, there has been explosive growth in the number of students taking AP classes, with one-quarter of all high-school graduates having taken at least one in 2004. In addition, more high-school students are now taking the PSAT twice and the SAT and ACT at least once, if not multiple times.

College admissions anxiety

The prize at the end of the rainbow for many students is admission to a prestigious college, but the prize may seem less attainable now than in years past, especially depending upon how they and their parents define "prestigious."

According to the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, the number of high school graduates increased 24% from 1991 to 2004, and the number is expected to grow another 5% before 2017. That's an additional 700,000 high school graduates queuing up for college admission, while the actual number of colleges has remained the same.

The result: Highly selective colleges have become even more selective.

As the college admissions process becomes more demanding - more admissions tests, more rigorous classes, more applications, more college tours - the stress on students increases. "College admissions should be educational," says Lloyd Thacker, author of College Unranked: Ending the College Admissions Frenzy, at a recent lecture to parents of high school students in San Francisco. "But the process has become impossibly confusing."

Thacker, as the title of his book shows, has been campaigning to end the competitive frenzy to get into a brand-name college. He points out that "twenty-five percent of all college applications go to one percent of colleges."

"There are over 3,000 colleges in the United States and 70-80% of kids get into a college of their choice," Thacker says.

He encourages students to question the assumption that success in life is determined by the selectivity of the college that accepts them. "Two-thirds of Silicon Valley CEOs went to public colleges. Students are sacrificing their individuality, health and ethics to fit into a certain mold that they think colleges want. We're squelching curiosity and risk-taking," he says.

Some stress is good

Not all stress is bad. A certain amount of stress drives healthy competition in the classroom and in extracurricular activities. Good stress induces a student to strive for her personal best on an exam, a term paper or on the debate team.

"It's impossible to live in a stress-free world," says Pope. "A little bit of butterflies before a test may improve performance. Our definition of bad stress is that a student feels the situation is impossible or he feels he is not able to meet the demands upon him."

Parents need to be sensitive to their child's individual ability to deal with stress.

Some high school students may be able to handle four or five AP classes at a time, but many may not be able to. "There is a myth that if you're getting great grades you're OK. However, great grades are not an indicator of good mental health," says Pope.

If your child exhibits any of the above symptoms and it's causing problems at school or home, or if any of the above symptoms persists for weeks, seek professional help. You can start with your school counselor or family doctor.

Teaching students to regulate stress

A number of strategies are available to help navigate the stresses of school. Parents can start by listening to their children. If a child complains of stress, anxiety, depression or hopelessness, parents should pay attention.

There are many children, however, who do not or cannot verbalize their stress. In these cases, parents need to be on the lookout for other signs. Some children may not want to stop or slow down their schedules for fear of disappointing their parents.

Strategies for parents of younger children

  • Listen and notice any expressions of anxiety
  • Talk with them about their feelings
  • Brainstorm with them to find things they can do to feel better
  • Make sure they are getting enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 9-11 hours for children 5-12 years old.
  • Make sure you are not over scheduling them

Strategies for parents of older children

  • Make sure they are not over scheduling themselves
  • Make sure they are getting enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 8.5-9.5 hours a day for adolescents
  • Look at your assumptions about what constitutes a good college and what you are communicating, perhaps unknowingly, to them

Strategies for parents of children of all ages

  • Look at how you define success and how you communicate that to your children
  • Limit media time
  • Increase family time, especially eating meals together as a family

Strategies for students

  • Think about how you define success and make the appropriate changes to your attitude
  • Root out any tendencies to perfectionism
  • Be aware of tendencies to be overly competitive
  • Ask yourself whether you are being less creative and open to exploration in exchange for high grades and test scores

It goes without saying that schools have a part to play in reducing stress.

Strategies for schools

  • Examine the testing, homework and final exam policies
  • Stop publishing the honor roll in newspapers
  • Stop listing where kids are going to college in community newspapers and in graduation ceremonies
  • Look at teaching and assessment policies

One school, Needham High School in Needham, Massachusetts, created a Stress Reduction Committee after Principal Paul Richards attended a Stressed-Out Students conference at Stanford University.

In January 2008, the committee issued an report encouraging parents to help by advocating for a "mastery goal approach" to high school rather than a "performance goal approach, focused on high grades and admission to a name-brand college."

The report advised the school to "minimize any hypocritical practices that contribute to high stress, e.g., non-coordinated testing schedules, excessive homework and ranking students."

These actions, and more, have been taken at Needham High School as of January 2008:

  • Teachers participated in a professional development day on stress and wellness
  • Stress management workshops were held for juniors and sophomores
  • Articles about stress appeared in the student newspaper
  • A stress survey was taken by the student body in February 2006

The committee identified many more actions to be taken. These include:

  • Develop a Web site with a list of resources about stress
  • Communicate best practices to reduce stress
  • Revise the school's homework policy
  • Create a column about stress in the student newspaper

Finding the right level of stress

Parents need to set rules for their children that enforce moderation. They must strive to keep time free for family meals and activities.

Driving children from one activity to another, day after day, while cramming homework into whatever time is left over, teaches children to over schedule themselves. On the other hand, if parents have personal goals for themselves — that they can realistically achieve — are comfortable with their own stress levels, and know how to relax, then their children will grow up learning to do the same.

These are the signs that a student has a healthy level of stress:

  • She is excited about learning.
  • He doesn't feel that he needs to cheat to get ahead.
  • She feels healthy.
  • He feels he is determining his own future.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

06/7/2012:
"I'm in 9th grade. I just finished, I skipped 8th grade, and I start my calculus class today. Stressed? Nope. I LIKE school...it's these mean classmates of mine who make me upset. "
04/26/2012:
"I'm in 8th grade and 100% agree with this. My whole 8th grade year has been pretty stressful. Algebra students get homework every day, and very few of them actually complete it. Now, being almost the end of the year, we have not one, not two, but THREE projects that will decide if we pass that class or not. And guess what? We get a week to complete all of them. Even better? All due on the same day. Better still? My school has about 50 computers for 300 students. So, every computer is reserved untill the end of the year. Yep, that's right. After the 2 days for each class, no more time to finish! "
04/16/2012:
" grades completely make me go insane! "
03/14/2012:
"I am an 8th grader and I feel that this year has been extremely stressful. My mother gives up all hope when I get an A-, and while maintaining an A grade is t that hard for me, I've been doing it while she still demanded more time spent on studies. Plus, I am looking for a good high school to go to, definitely not my base school. I feel stressed wihout even having extracurriculars, which I've never tried taking in my life. "
03/12/2012:
"I cannot take school anymore. I am in 9th grade and school makes me stressed all the time. This is the cause of why I am failing all my classes .Because of this stress I can't even think straight anymore. I really need help because I really care about my grades but I am getting below 50 and I'm really scared of failing the grade. "
03/6/2012:
"Homework and activities are not the factors contributing to this stress overload...? Anyone who says this obviously hasn't experienced today's demanding education. I'm a 9th grader in the state of Connecticut, and just upon entering high-school, we have been bombarded with ceaseless assignments and nearly unattainable expectations. I find myself sometimes working on homework for even five hours in a row, and barely getting any sleep because of it. My free time that once allowed me to expand on my skills (I had always wanted to create a book, and I always loved art), has completely diminished. Now all we hear from the teacher's is, "Oh. You finished that paper we just assigned? Here, have another one!" Knowledge is a great thing, and sometimes, I can safely say I love school. Though, I can also easily state, that all this stress is NOT helping the students. It is only making it harder for them to learn, and therefore doing the exact opposite of what it was meant to accomplis! h. I actually don't find my class to be very difficult (in my opinion, I know other people have their struggles, too), but it's the work-overload that keeps me from performing to the best of my ability. I know this article is old, but I couldn't help saying something. I'm scared to see what's going to happen later in the long run if I'm already stressed this early on in high-school. I'm very glad to see that parents have begun to realize these issues, though, and I wish the best for any other students who happen to be going through the same thing. In the meantime, I will continue to try to do my best, and hopefully see all this hard work pay off in the longtime. "
02/6/2012:
"The kids in first grade is getting too much homework and its very stressful for them at the age 6 someone needs to do something about this "
10/20/2011:
"Even though the posts here are a few years old, I send out a big CHEERS to all the students who have contributed their responses - it is SO important to get this message out and nothing can express the reality better than those in the middle of it. Adults running the system need the feedback so they don't forget who this is all supposed to be for - YOU. School is vastly different than it was 20 years ago, and the workloads and pressures have increased dramatically. To all the kids out there: Don't give up... & remember that all these individual tests and classes, and even the college you go to, are not the only thing that will determine your future or who you will become. So if you miss a few beats here and there, it's okay... character & life experience are just as important! Right now my son is 12, and he's been experiencing stress and anxiety since day #1 in school. Even in Kinder-G he would be sent home with (huge) weekly packets of homework; I don't think we ever did successfully complete an entire packet. I also experienced a great deal of stress, wondering what might be wrong with him/us that we had such difficulty with this. I eventually learned, that there were only TWO students (in the class of 33) that finished the work. Talk about promoting a sense of failure straight out the gate!! The standardized testing definitely adds to the stress in so many ways, especially since his school requires studying year-round (which I believe promotes a constant state of test-anxiety). Even worse, this year the studying he does for the testing will count toward his class grades. If he gets x-number of "blue ribbons", he's good to go and gets to keep the grade he earned. If not, his letter grade in that subject will be dropped by a full letter. I'm not sure, if this is even legal. It's not really a "class", but then I suppose there are some classes titled "study hall". Even then, those generally count toward a citizenship grade, NOT academic. I'm in the process of researching if this inclusion is legit. "
10/21/2008:
"I am a 17 year old senior in high school right now and I must agree that stress levels are really high for students nowadays. When I see my little brother coming home from his 4th grade class with test results, I need to ask myself why the school would start forcing a little child to consider his mental capacity. To me, it was absurd. In my case, I've become stressed out while trying to balance academics, sports, work, and personal issues and have repeatedly taken days off of school. This self destructive habit is seriously damaging my academic performance and not only is it hard to catch up, it's becoming a very serious habit. Once I feel overly stressed (which is happening more often because I miss so much school) I feel the need to take a day off. I fear I may be depressed but I don't have anyone to talk to. I once tried to talk to my mother but I got a very confrontational response where she asked if I even wanted to graduate. If I talk to my fellow classmates they say t! hat they're going through the same things and they call me a whiner. Teachers cannot possibly understand because they often view students at face value. My grades apparently reflect who I am. For the record, I have A's, B's, C's, and D's on my transcript. I honestly don't know what to do anymore. I can't do this on my own and it scares me to think that I'm giving up. I would really appreciate some advice so that I can turn my grades around my senior year. "
03/10/2008:
"As a parent of a 1st grader, I am already feeling the stress. I feel there is always something we have to prepare for in order to do good on thses tests. Thses tests however fail to acknowledge the individuality of the child, fail to acknowledge that the child might be sick on that particular day and a whole host of other factors. I feel the real assessments should be in the classroom with the teacher . If there is a problem in a certain area then work on that area. To put too many demands on our kids is not making them smarter. It is truly stressing them out. My son for instance is 6 years old. He is younger than most of the kids in his class but is in the upper part of his class. He excels in Math. His reading is not far behind. However, when he took a phonemic awareness test which is timed and in which the words are given auditorially to the child and they have to say each individual sound, he did not do so well. I was told he had a 'phonemic awareness problem'. I then asked the teacher how a child could read the way he does(compound words etc) and I was told that students by this time know a lot of sight words. I then told the teacher to sit down with him and in fact she would see that he sounds out everything. She did so and then agreed with me. My son has a time problem, not a phonemic awareness problem. But the 'school 'has to meet its standardized requirement and therefore he is in a phonemic awareness class. I end my case here. I really feel that teachers, not the goverment is equiped to evaluate an individual child. Throw the tests away and let these children develop normally. Most even out at the 3rd year level. If there are problems along the way, then put extra work into this area. Catherine"
03/6/2008:
"I think it's really important that kids realize that getting into college is not the meaning of life. As a high school junior and an ex-cutter, I experience the stress of school first hand. Thanks to mounds of homework and extracurriculars, I average about five hours of sleep a night, which damages my performance in school. Being surrounded by stressed-out classmates doesn't help either. For example, my friend is going to take both Spanish and French next year. I asked her if she was interested in foreign language or international diplomacy as a career, and she responded 'No, but it looks good on college applications'. The boy who sits next to me in AP Chemistry worries everyday about how he's doing in the class. He's counting down the days to the AP exam, scared to death that if he doesn't do well, he will not get into college and disappoint his parents. My boyfriend, who was very involved in sports, his church, and school, became so stressed out that he ran away from home. Even after he returned, he was extremely depressed and couldn't deal with the stresses of school. Because of his depression, he missed several weeks of class, which didn't help his situation, and four months later he is still not the same. It scares me to see how worried my friends are about college. I'm worried too, of course, but since I've been talking to my parents my outlook has grown more positive. I think that good communication is important between kids and their parents. Even more important, though, is not expecting too much from your child. If they want to drop down a level in science so that they have an ounce of free time, LET THEM! Teenage stress is a very real issue, and I don't think that people really understand until they've been involved with it. Adults tend to think of high school stress with a nostalgic 'I remember those days' mentality, or to merely pile it on top of all of the other issues related to growing up and blame it all on hormones. Others say 'Oh, yes, school is tough' but fail to take any action. It's pathetic, it's getting old, and it's not helping anyone."
02/27/2008:
"Thank you for this nice article. My son who is in fifth grade has trouble sleeping early. I thought about scheduling an appointment with our primary doctor. I didn't realize he was stressed."
02/27/2008:
"Taking standardized tests on a regular basis should actually diminished the stress and make it easier for the students to perform better especially when they are older. I always tell my children that they are well prepared for these tests because they have been studying all year long and now there is nothing to be nervous or worried about. It is never helpful to tell them how terribly critical a certain score is. That would only hurt their chances of doing well. My children usually do very well in standardized tests."
02/26/2008:
"I have noticed that the school district has made everthing the kids responsibility now a days. I have noticed that the schools are only interested in pushing kids through not doing there job and making sure these kids are learning. I believe with technology the way it is with the phones and the I pods there are so distracting to that individual that there concentration levels are else where. I believe if they want to put the responsibility on students know a day the teachers need a better way of reaching the kids. I have seen that the teachers have lost there creativity of teaching and have become the parent in the schools I have seen teachers spend more time at correcting children than teaching children. So far all they do is pile home on these kids and seem to think that they are reaching them I believe you need to get the kids attention before they can learn"
02/25/2008:
"I thought this article was excellent. So much I sent it to my twins Middle School. Thank you for writing a wonderful article. My twins in elementary are getting what feels like hours of homework and they are in Kindergarten."
02/25/2008:
"I have a 17 year old son who is in his senior year of high school. He is bright, handsome and talented, as all parents feel about their kids. We never felt we pressured him and were involved and supportive of his choices of activities. Sometime during his junior year, he just shut down. He continued to make decent grades, which he could do with little effort, but all of the activities he loved to do he gave up. He became moody, unhappy, and angry. He couldn't sleep. We watched and worried for a while, thinking it an adolescent phase. We tried to talk to him but he did not talk to us. We talked to his teachers and friends to find out if something had happened he wasn't telling us, but everyone just said it was 'senioritis'. I finally scheduled an appointment with his pediatrician, telling my son it was to check for mono. Once there, his father and i told the doctor about his behavior and personality changes. Our son spoke to the dr. privately and told the doctor h! ow unhappy he was and that he had thoughts of harming himself. His doctor listened and put him on an antidepressant. He recommeneded a counselor for our son to talk to. with the help of these professionals, we have our happy son back again. Since this time, we have heard of many others who have gone through the same things and are taking medication to help with depression. My son tells us it is a toxic high school environment, the pressure to conform, the stress to achieve, the behavior of kids to each other that contributed to his problems. He would not go back into his traditional high school but is finishing through a program at the local community college that allows high school students to get dual credit and graduate high school. Although the work load is a little heavier, the college environment is better suited for him and he is enjoying his classes without the social pressures of high school. He feels more in control of his life, and is looking forward to ! attending a university one hour away in the fall. I know if w! e had no t intervened, my son might not be here today."
02/25/2008:
"I thank you deeply for this article, it has opened my eyes to the stupidity of the school system. I have 6 year old son who is a first grader and to his teachers is showing some of very disturbing signs of within the last months. I have had countless meetings/phone calls with his teachers and they all seem to think and assume that my son has some kind of mental or learning problem. What they haven't stopped to think is that maybe, he is stressed out and might need some counceling to help with his learning. Now his work has been increased by at least 30 min. of reading (which a sheet must be signed by a parent aside from the daily homework) practice words, practice math, and an additional reading of 12 books minimum per month that is required by the school to 'help' his reading scores. I am a mother of 2 and expecting a third, I work 9-10 hour days and usually make it home after 6 which only gives me just enough time to make dinner, check his binder for homework and do it, give both kids bath and go to bed. At home he learns just fine when we sit and do things together, yes, I am not going to lie and say that at times I myself find it difficult to sit with him and get things accomplished, but at least I know he is getting the attention he sometimes need a not the constant repremanding he gets in school. He seems to catch things better when he is 'teaching' them to me or playing games that make him move and learn at the same time (I am not referring to media games). It is a wonder why my 6 year old is showing signs of behavior, from what his pediatrician has told me my son is just 'stressed'. and what angers me the most is that they now notice these behavior changes after the mid-school year when he is struggling to keep up with the rest of the kids and they quickly assume he's got a learning disability and want to find the easy way to fix it. I am just a bit dissapointed in the way that the schools now determine 'disabilities' in children....don't they stop and think that maybe making learning FUN in school and less homework for the kids would make them learn better?"
02/25/2008:
"I agree that too much homework is causing a lot of anxiety for my kids. Homework used to be for the purpose of review not for teaching what the teacher couldn't get to during the class time. Are teachers failing to utilize the class time effectively and use homework as a way out? The fact is that the curriculum is more difficult now than is was when I went to school, but I do think that some teachers are not held accountable for actually teaching. School is an institution for childcare as opposed to what it should be, an institution of learning."
02/25/2008:
"Thank u for that helpful information, i sometimes think that I push my daughter to much, like when she has a test or a project i want her to do her best but at the same time i dont want to overwhelm her because she also goes to ccd classes and she has to study for that also."
02/25/2008:
"I thought it was a very helpful article - and well-timed!"
02/25/2008:
"My granddaughter is almost 11, and is in the 5th grade in a Texas School. There is so much stress placed upon her to pass the TAKS test that there is no time left in the day to help her learn the facts she is behind in. When she got her report card on Thursday, and the box was checked that she may not be promoted, she was very emotionally upset. She made all B's on the report card except for math, which she failed because she does not know her basic math facts. A problem we have been dealing with for 4 years. Her IQ is too high for special ed, and her ADD does not qualify her either. We have a terrible situation on our hands and the school is at the base of it. She met nearly every stress factor you identified. I will be taking her to a professional for help. Thank you."
02/25/2008:
"I find this very interesting because I am a teacher struggling with so many students who are happy with C's. You might say that they are smart for not stressing over it. I know what they are going to face after high school and they are not going to be prepared. "
02/25/2008:
"I find this very interesting because I am a teacher struggling with so many students who are happy with C's. You might say that they are smart for not stressing over it. I know what they are going to face after high school and they are not going to be prepared. "
02/25/2008:
"HOMEWORK AND ACTIVITIES ARE NOT THE STRESS FACTORS! People have no problem figuring out where their niches lay. From my families stand-point, going to a private University is standard. Our government tests, and places all our people effectively. The only stress I see, is the people whom are: 'teapots,' at 5pm, on weekends, and on holidays. These people, raise tape-recording robots, whom are, steamy, loud, and obnoxious. The school work, is, not that hard. Trying to focus and concentrate with people like this, in the neighorhood, is, a frightening thought. These people really are,that loud, and think they need, to express themselfs, loudly, ,24/7. These are the stress factors, making homework a struggle, it's a real, natural disaster, and the population keeps growing, adding more, and more, of these, don't know better, distractions. How does one protect their children, from this, serious stress? One can't tell these ones that, 'I understand, you have issues, but, please try to keep it quiet, so we can enjoy our civil rights.' This would make an invitation to their inquisitiveness. Which asks us, to do their, homework, for them, help them, with their, issues. And, help raise, their, children. If they think/know that we understand them, they will, trip, or hurt us, and continue to waste OUR precious time. Their issues, will, hurt us. My conclusion is to add more classes to the school system, in child development, and emotional development concepts. Those whom have developed the stress factor concept for our young people, are commendable. As are those, who have developed the enabled by-stander, to the bully interaction. I read this in a recent Great Schools letter. The later, thus creating a hinderence, to this sad, and stressfull, scenario. Stress gaging and identification has been in the school system, during my education days. Highlighting it can only help, and expediate, things. Those whom run around disturbing our children from getting, and/or having interest in a PHD, and/or and a good education, may see the light, shut-up, and let our children ejoy life: their civil rights to a peaceful environment, and the American dream of a good education, in this land of opportunity, where anyone, can, and is promised, a good education, and is GIVEN, the right to become something. And, those who felt victomized, or were bystanders, to this rampid stress, will be enabled, and able to identify this hazard, getting in the way of their precious, education. This is, a natural disaster, stress factor, that really needs to be dealt with. We need to protect our children from things that steal intelligent quoutients. Controling this stress factor will render one a happy, healthy, life. Birds fly, fish swim, and people use their minds, all enjoying precious adeptness, and blessings. Sincerely, What is in the evironments, that I need to protect my children from?"
02/22/2008:
"My daughter has started her first year in highschool. In the beginning she was very excited about school, it was all she could talk about. She has all honors classes, her group is what the school considers the cream of the crop. The first nine weeks she breezed through with what seemed to be no problem. The second nine weeks were a little harder for her. It was harder for her to get the grades that are expected from her. Now this is the third nine weeks and she is struggling to stay caught up, she is late to class and is going to guidence twice a week. She seems to stay stressed out, the joy that she had for school has all but disappeared. The only time she acts normal is when we don't have to talk about school.....The amount of homework just amazes me. The expectations of our students have gotten a little out of hand. She does plan on going to college and becoming a doctor but something has to give somewhere."
02/22/2008:
"Good article, but I don't believe 70-80% of the students attend the college of their choice. I know of many in Texas that wanted to attend a state university, but didn't qualify to even apply and were forced to go out-of-state to Oklahoma or Arkansas. Also, another sign of stress I've seen in my first grader at the beginning of last semester was chewing on his clothes. He started having holes on his collars and cuffs. After a few months, he was on the A honor roll and gained some recognition through school awards. I believe he needed to feel more comfortable with his transition from a different preschool to a much larger public school. He is now doing well and not chewing on his clothes anymore."
02/22/2008:
"This article is great! I am at my wit's end. My daughter (17) attends a magnet program school where the emphasis is WORK WORK WORK to get to the right school. She is miserable. I have spoken to her several times (I have also taking her to her physician) about the fact that I really do not care what undergrad school she goes to. I am not with that type of mentality. I grew up with that type of pressure: working hard, harder your hardest and I did 'make it' to Notre Dame but I was not HAPPY, I dropped out, I almost lost my mind. So I did not want that to happen to my daughter but unfortunately is the pressure they put at school that makes her so unhappy: NOT BEING ABLE TO BE THE BEST!!!!! and get those straight A's. It is inconceivable to me that the children have to be under such impossible pressure. My daughter is always tired, sleepy and in a bad mood when she is in school. Otherwise she is fantastic when she is away from that type of atmosphere. Something should be done! I! have taken her to her doctor and they are running tests to rule out the possibility of anemia or thyroid problems. My daughter wants to take the drug they prescribe for ADD and she swears she has the problem. Her doctor disagrees. Is this what we are coming to? Children needing drugs to get through a school day? It is a sorry time in our society."
02/22/2008:
"I totally agree about too much homework and stressing the wrong academics at certain times of the childs life. I have recently pulled my child out of school and we have bought our own high academic curriculum that we do at our own pace. In the schools they just blab and move on to the next topic. If your child unerstands it then great .......... if not then too bad. They are moving on anyway. We are loving our new life together and educating at home and via the internet and we do or learn something until it is understood and makes sense. The schools are going down hill and I am glad my kids are not in them anymore."
02/22/2008:
"I am an elementary teacher and a mom. I am shocked at the pressure that my kindergarten students are under. Yes, I teach kindergarten, which is no longer play-based but highly academic with the expectation that most children will be reading by June. I have even heard children discussing which college they want to attend! I have put my foot down with homework and refuse to give it (except being read to by a parent, of course) even when a parent asks for homework. The most disapointing thing I have encountered as a mom is the 'rat race' to get my child into preschool. I have also found that most preschools are doing a lot of academics. What happened to childhood?"
02/22/2008:
"My son is a Junior in High School and 17 years old. He is over stressed based on many things. He has a step parent that expects only A's, and expects that he complete assignments 3 weeks in advance or cannot have free time to be with his friends. He has lost 14 pounds in the last 60 days, partially due to an ADHD medication and partly due to stress. I'd like to know more about how to help him, given that he lives full time with his father and step mother. They are drama driven people, so he has learned from them. Also they moved to a new area 4 hours from me, about 3.5 years ago and he is not happy there. He's trying to finish HS there and come home for college. Help and any positive suggestions would be great. Thank you and great article. "
02/22/2008:
"Great information! It gives me a selfcheck about the stress level we put on our children. Thank you!"
02/22/2008:
"Dear I would end the FCAT: The tone of your letter somehow sounds as if you are foreign born. I find it interesting the number of times I hear how we are so academically behind in the world and yet when foreigners are faced with actually attending our schools, they find them too competitive, too challenging. If you think your child is stressed, look at how students handle stress and academic failure in Japan. Nonetheless, students have always had a certain degree of stress; it is part of the process of maturing. Life and our very existence on this planet is stressful. I think part of the reason our children have so much homework today is that the ideas for academic advancement come from adults who attended private schools. Private schools usually get the wealthest and often the smartest children in our communities. They work them very hard academically to be successful future leaders. These leaders of today are trying to apply their formula for success to public school! s. When I attended school in the 60's and 70's, we had a unique approach to overcoming academic stress: we studied. I question the value of a school that produces a child who receives a 4.0 in his local curriculum yet he can't pass a national standardized test. Perhaps the local school has failed to properly educate or challange your child, or perhaps your child has failed to properly prepare and just begged and BS'd his way through school. Perhaps less of his time should be spent in community outreach and more time hitting the books. As a senior in high school, I lettered in AAAA football, and was a member of the Latin Club, science Club and about four other clubs. I carried a 3.75 and managed a 28 ACT and 1400 SAT. I lived in a town with 80,000 people and there were five National Merit Scholarship finalist in my class of 375. Our secret was not too much TV -- and we studied. We live in a competitive society and as adults we have learned that opportunity favors the pr! epared. Good luck preparing your child."
02/22/2008:
"I read your article to determine if my 12 year old daughter is over scheduled. I was relieved that she has none of your symtoms of stressed children even though she has after school activities almost everyday. Being an only child she enjoys being active and the opportunity to be with other kids. Children learn other life skills from activities outside of school. Confidence and leadership opportunities are important also. Acknowledgement of hard work including Honor Roll or awards should be encouraged to continue motivation. America was founded by hard working and high achieving individuals. To continue success in our country in a competive global world our children ( our future) must learn hard world earns pride in a job well done. Sorry but 'good enough' really isn't. "
02/21/2008:
"What a timely article. My son is 10 years old and in the 5th grade. He a member of the school band sings in the school chorus, safety patrol, soccer team, Karate classes, private music lessons and volunteers with Meal on Wheels. My initial intent was to help my child be well rounded. Over the last several months I've noticed a difference. He's short tempered and stressed. His pediatrician says my little guy is showing signs of puberty but I can't help but think he maybe just stressed. I'm in the process of reevaluating his schedule, perhaps I my methods of getting him “well rounded” is not the right approach."
02/21/2008:
"'Stop publishing the honor roll in newspapers Stop listing where kids are going to college in community newspapers and in graduation ceremonies' These statements are concerning to me. I understand that some parents put undue stress on their kids to do well in school. All the same, shouldn't a child be rewarded for doing well? Why would you take away that prize from a child, perhaps one who hadn't done so well in the past & made a real effort all on his own to progress? He earned it, didn't he? It is my opinion that these suggestions are another way of taking special recognition away from those who genuinely deserve it so that no one feels berated, belittled, left out, or whatever word suits you best. This is no different than all the kids getting a turn to play on the ball team. While all should be given a fair chance, shouldn't those who are better get to play more? This is an important life lesson for kids to learn to deal with the 'real world.' Every one is not going to be promoted to CEO just as every ball player won't make the majors. We, as adults, publish promotions in our trade magazines & have award ceremonies for those who excel. Why should the kids be any different? My child works hard in school & loves to have her name appear in the paper as a reward. I wouldn't want to take that away from her because some other kids have a hard time dealing with stress. At some point, the parents have to accept responsibility for shaping their child into an adult & stop relying on everyone else to do it for them. Thank you for your time."
02/21/2008:
"Being a foreigner new to this country and having lived in South America and Europe, I'm absolutely shocked to realize the levels of competition and anxiety american children are exposed to since their early childhood. Having two girls in 5th and 8th grades, I'm doing my best to explain them that, although I expect them to dedicate to their studies and try to achieve their best, there is much more to life than that... or at least it should! Our first decision as a family was not to subscribe for TV, isolating us a bit from the 'must have', 'must do', 'must buy' and concentrate entertainment in 'out of the beatten track' movies (including documentaries) and more cultural oriented family activities, such as going together to the theater, shows and museum exhibitions. I'm pretty sure that helps them to relax and to get a taste of life's inumerous and fantastic possibities, beyond what is being offered to them at school or on TV...And, honestly, my only expectation for them as a mother is that they will become complete adults with critical sense, the ability of adapting (increasingly needed nowadays) and, hopefully, a great sense of humour. What else???"
02/21/2008:
"Interesting article. Our family doc suggested focus drugs since my son is 'bored' making mostly a's, his response is keeping these children alert and focused since our nation was built with men that had ADD! I see the problem being the cirriculum, especially for boys, since mostly women are teaching and setting up the classrooms. Disruptive behavior which is mostly from boys, adding unecessary loads of homework, keeping them in from recess if they don't get seatwork done only adds to the problem. in "
02/21/2008:
"What do experts think about the parent who insists that a child see an activity through to the end if the child commits to it--such as a sport, band, the school play, etc? I'm not saying that the activity would continue into another season or year--I'm saying that the current season or year is completed and then the child doesn't have to continue with the activity. I'm assuming that the time requirement for this activity doesn't add to the stress level because the child would just substitute a new activity for the old one. If it's clear that the activity is causing stress for any reason other than 'I don't like it' of 'I don't like the kids in it' after one or two practices, then the parent would look into the reason more deeply and probably allow the child to leave the activity. Just wondering if I'm on the wrong page with that one."
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