Let Your Kids Be Kids

Let Your Kids Be KidsChildhood experts and those who have studied the stressed-out are weighing in on the ways we can help our children reclaim simpler pleasures. Here are a few of their suggestions for slowing down and getting a little balance back into kids' lives:

Embrace the joy of goofing around. If you live in an area where you can let your child run amok with his friends outdoors, let him; if you don't, remember that just hanging with friends and neighbors indoors can be great too.

Limit kids to one or two activities per season. For her book The Overachievers, which chronicled the lives of hyper-competitive teens destined for prestigious colleges, Alexandra Robbins interviewed kids of all ages; she found some as young as 6 who complained of stress, and 8-year-olds who were carrying day planners. "Kids may have lots of energy, but they get as tense as adults would when they're overscheduled," Robbins says. Hence, One-on-one time is great.

Encourage more human time, less screen and toy time. Our children are spending larger and larger chunks of time with stuff and less time with people. Even with something as simple as a car ride...parents used to use car time to talk to their kids, and now the kids are watching DVDs in the backseat.

Introduce computers with caution. Many childhood experts agree that the interactive quality of computers can be powerfully motivating for kids who are learning to read and write—and games can be just plain pleasurable, too. But, notes computers are finding their ways into tinier and tinier hands.

Reclaim summer. It's time for all of us to stop thinking of summer vacation as an opportunity to burnish a résumé. Children and parents need that hiatus to recharge. As a bonus, if you relax over the summer, you're going to be rejuvenated in time for back-to-school. When else are your kids going to catch lightning bugs and learn to play games like Jailbreak with the neighborhood kids?

Learn to trust your child. This may be the most important parenting rule of all. Children are self-directed learners—they are naturally curious—and how they learn is through play.

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