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Apodaca: Parents should give their kids a break for the holidays

Students can benefit from a change of pace after a pressure-filled fall.

December 13, 2013|By Patrice Apodaca

As winter break approaches, giving students a needed rest after a pressure-filled fall, I'll bet that a lot of kids are hoping Santa stuffs some chill pills into their parents' Christmas stockings.

Whether Mom and Dad would be willing to take the medicine is another matter.

Over the past few years, a national conversation has ensued regarding how much, how far and how fast our kids are being pushed to perform. We have questioned whether we hold unrealistic expectations and if we're using the wrong measures to gauge success in everything from academics to sports. We blame teachers, the college admissions race, global competition and the culture in general for creating an environment filled with unprecedented levels of stress.

"It's too much." "It's gone too far." "It's out of control." These are the comments I hear again and again when the topic is inevitably raised among my circle of friends and acquaintances in Newport Beach.

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My anecdotal observations are buttressed by media reports, documentaries and studies chronicling the rising levels and cost of childhood stress.

Yet, worry as we may about the toll on our kids, it is we parents who are perhaps the biggest source of that pressure. We are not innocent bystanders or unwitting victims of a system gone mad. We are co-conspirators, aiding and abetting in the stress escalation.

Just recently a discussion I had with other parents revealed such unintended collaboration.

One parent, for instance, echoed the sentiment that pressure on kids is too great, while also sharing that her child had been prepping for a rigorous admissions test and an exhaustive application process. Not for college. The kid is still in middle school. This application was for a high school.

Another parent worried that his young adult son was having trouble finding his way toward a stable career. The young man is passionate about his interests, is making a living and seems content, yet his father is plagued by a vague feeling that his son somehow isn't doing enough with his life.

Another recent conversation revealed one parent's view that only admissions to certain ultra-select colleges would lead to career success. That view was shared by yet another parent, who felt that only he should have the final say about which college his son would attend, even if the boy disagreed.

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