A gift for children for later life

2008-01-08 00:00

The long December holiday that drags well into January is every mother’s nightmare, if we are totally honest.

December looked after itself because of the Christmas hype, new toys, family visiting and people going on holiday, but by now our children have mostly had their holiday, have enjoyed the Christmas spirit and they are getting bored.

By now mothers have pulled out all the stops and this holiday is starting to feel like an eternity.

Mothers I spoke to are tearing their hair out because the holidays are so long.

My children’s long holiday period when we lived in Hong Kong was the two months in July and August because it was too hot to venture outside. It was a bloody nightmare. That was until I came across specialist psychologist Lesley Lewis. Her words impacted me and the readers of my column so greatly that I hoped her words of wisdom changed a generation of children.

These were the powerful words she had to impart: “During school term our children are bombarded in a way that we as children never were. Academic standards have become 100 times more demanding. Their academic day and then the homework that children get today is something we were never faced with. Most children don’t get home until after four in the afternoon after getting to school at around 7 am. This is tantamount to a full day’s work that adults do. Once they get home they do homework, maybe watch a bit of TV, but their whole day is fully planned. Then for many children they have either sports on a Saturday or Saturday school. They are left with one day to relax and inevitably this day is planned by their parents too.

“When holidays come, parents are too scared that their children will have nothing to do, so make sure that their child has something to do every day in order to stave off that dreaded word, boredom,” says Lewis.

She claims this is one of the biggest mistakes we can make.

“By planning every moment of your child’s life you are teaching him or her how not to relax. You are teaching him that life has to be filled with entertainment of some sort every moment of every day. Real life is not like that. Has it ever occurred to a parent that at the end of the year your child is also tired? Boredom is so important. It teaches your child to think about what he or she wants to do, it creates imagination, it allows your child to actually set his or her own pace. By planning your child’s schedule down to the last T all you are doing is growing an adult who will be incapable of being alone, who will never be able to initiate his own entertainment, or maybe even just read a book in peace. A child who is brought up with his or her life planned will grow up to be an adult who needs the same, who cannot be alone, who cannot relax because he or she never learnt how, a person who needs constant entertainment.”

After hearing Lewis’s advice I tried it on my daughter after telling her “that only stupid people get bored” and the next thing I found her in a tree with all her fluffy toys reading them a story. She also started having catnaps, although admittedly it did take a day or two of getting used to. Mothers need to realise that allowing their children to get bored is doing them a favour. Not only will they see that once their children start to relax they are actually tired, but in the long run you will be raising adults who are well balanced and who do not need to be entertained all day.

Let your children find their own routines and be fully rested for school when they go back to what is actually an “executive” schedule for little people.

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