I often talk about children are far too young to cope with the fast-paced world we live in. Their struggles show up as spacey, hyperactive, hypervigilant, anxious or angry, rigid and controlling. Other people call it behavioural issues. I disagree.
So does Child Psychologist Kim Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting, who says that with constant stress, children can slide into hyperactivity, inattentiveness or into OCD, or “stuckness,” – it’s their response to inescapable stress. This is especially worrisome in a society that is quick to judge, label, and prescribe.
Today’s behavioural issues come from excess.
Overconsuming, overscheduling and living life at breakneck speed interrupts a child’s natural rhythms. It also creates intolerable stress which if left unaddressed will very quickly manifest into something more serious.
We cannot change the world.
We must prepare them for it.
Overcoming struggles is how we learn our greatest life lessons, but when the struggle becomes consistent and too much, it starts to affect our mental, emotional and physical health.
We must make new choices!
We must do life differently.
It’s your life. You have permission to do it differently.
We must prioritise emotional wellbeing in schools, at home and change our overconsuming materialistic culture. We must commit to creating new habits which support and give children the tools to exist in this super busy crazy bonkers world. We must choose to balance love and time over money and work. We must choose simplicity and nature over noise and drama. We must choose ourselves and our families- our hopes, dream and wants over mindlessly following the sheeple.
What are the 10 common signs it’s all getting too much?
Aside from the obvious physical ones like biting nails or lip, teeth grinding and scratching in your sleep (I used to do all of these), let’s have a look at the other ones which I see far too regularly:
1. Being Late / Rushing / Being Forgetful and Spaced Out
We lose sight of the fact that children are not adults and are learning every day. It’s only fair, we tolerate their mistakes and forgetfulness. It’s only fair we have appropriate expectations of their capabilities.
- Are we kind and compassionate about that?
- What about though, when we’ve got too much to remember?
- How many people are you thinking for?
- Are you doing things that your child could be doing for themselves?
- Are you creating a job for yourself so you feel needed?
If you find yourself as a family rushing or running late and any other general feelings of chaos, it’s time to dial it down a notch.
2. Zoning out in front of the TV / Screens / Video Games
The virtual world is part of growing up today, but it requires consistent boundaries for usage time and safety. When children start to use the virtual world to escape from their reality or to numb out uncomfortable feelings, this is a warning sign. Children tell me that they cannot fall asleep without watching TV or they have to play video games because all their friends are doing it.
Screens light up our brains in a way that is addictive and not relaxing at all. We mustn’t allow this, or let them believe it’s the truth. We must educate them about how their minds and bodies are connected, and we must give them alternative soothing methods.
3. Resisting Sleep
As a Nanny, sleep training taught me that babies take about 20 minutes to settle themselves even if they moan or wriggle (weighted blankets are the equivalent of swaddling to keep them safe and relaxed). I’ve noticed children are going to bed way after their tired slot or are too wired after a long stressful, overstimulating day to be ready for sleep. There needs to be time between school, homework, tea time or activities to wind down and be ready for sleepy time. This, of course, does not involve screens.
Children who find transitions difficult (change or moving from one activity or place to another) will need longer and more warning to get themselves prepared.
4. Not being able to sit still
Ants in your pants or lacking focus or butterfly brain as I like to call it doesn’t always mean your child needs an assessment for ADHD or ADD. (it worries me how quickly we label and medicate children without looking at their environment). This could simply be a sign that your child is carrying too many unexpressed emotions or trauma. When the emotional backpack is full, emotions come out sideways and feeling restless or not being able to focus and concentrate could just mean that life has gotten a little too much for your child.
If we are propelling ourselves from one thing to another and not stopping to take a breath. Why would a child then know how to relax if that is not the world they live in? It takes some practise and habit changing to get still and be still. I’m still practising. How about you?
5. Emotional Outbursts
Check in that your child is not hungry, angry, lonely or tired (It’s easy to remember and it spells HALT. The most obvious answer is usually why humans get cranky. How do you fare when you are any of those 4 things? I cannot function and it’s my body’s way of letting me know that I need something. A hug? A drink? Some food? Some time with you?
6. School Pressure
The best way a child learns is when they are relaxed and happy.
Sadly, our school system does not meet every child’s learning style, personality type or provide an environment that is stress-free. We can tell this is the case because when the school holidays come around, you know that you and your child are more than ready for the break.
When learning stops becoming fun and is about grades or about being the best, it’s a sign the pressure is on. Children tell me school is like a prison or it’s boring and they’ve stopped enjoying it. Some children have fierce inner critics. They tell themselves they are rubbish and feel inadequate in comparison to their peers. When did we stop seeing our child for who they are instead of their achievements and what they can do? Sadly the busy world we live in is all about doing and less and less about being.
7. Scared of making mistakes / failing / not wanting to disappoint you
They are avoiding being human and are putting themselves under pressure to tirelessly keep on trying until it is ‘perfect‘.To become strong from the inside and to have grit – children need to try something and fail, and try again and succeed, by themselves.
Their avoidance comes out in procrastination which is really their way of showing you that the fear is too big for them to start. They take way too long over homework and fret about tests and exams. Their fears are real and huge to them. Social media for older children also taps into this insecurity as everything online is captured as perfect when we know that they are snapshots in time which have been set up to look that way.
8. Checking / intrusive thoughts
Children who have to have things a certain way or want to be in control or are checking. Children who have an anxious disposition will do things like wash their hands (and feet – I used to do this before bedtime), check they haven’t forgotten something, being hypervigilant about what could go wrong or get stuck in a thought hole with a worry or something which is in reality not true or completely out of their control. A common one I hear is not feeling safe and worrying if a burglar or monster will somehow get into the house at night time.
9. Resisting School / After School clubs / Homework
This isn’t because they are trying it on or not being grateful for their opportunities. It’s more likely that they have too much on their plate and they either need help managing that or they need to cut back on how much they are doing every day.
I see children eating their tea in the car on the way to an after school club: this is a sign families aren’t making time for what is important. Nourishing our bodies and spending quality time together in simple ways – such as eating our dinner – is essential for security and role modelling healthy habits for children.
10. Clingy / Wanting to be at home
When children don’t want to leave you or leave the house or feign illness so they can stay at home, they are trying to tell you something. Listen to them. I can remember as a child loving the rain so much because it meant staying at home. There was no rushing or having to go anywhere. I was given lots of privileges as a child but there were 4 of us and it was stressful for my Mum to taxi us all around – school, piano, Brownies, tutors, horse riding, dancing and sports practice. I don’t know how she did it. Children need to be bored so they can find ways to overcome boredom by themselves. Space and downtime are essential building blocks of creativity and independence.
All these signs tell us that this is merely existing. This world is not going to slow down. Are you?
Slow down + simplify life to protect them from stress.
Help them feel safe, secure and happy.
If your child is displaying any of these signs, listen to the Truly Madly Smiley which is packed full of tips and tools on how to deal with all the big causes of stress – like toxic friendships, shouty teachers, homework, worries and scareds.
Children become what they live. This is NO way to live.
It’s up to us to find the balance between protecting them from stress and giving them the tools to make their own way in the world.
Want to learn more?