7. Choose age-appropriate family activities that connect rather than over-stimulate.
Too often, we as parents forget what really nourishes our child’s soul. For instance, children need desperately to spend more time in nature, which calms their physiology and grounds them. Young children DON’T need movies, virtually all of which are inappropriate for them.
If every other second grader is talking about some new movie, you may well agree to take him, but that’s very different than making movies a routine part of life. Parents often take young kids to movies because the parent finds it easier than taking the child on an adventure, whether that be a hike, bike ride, or museum. Choose age-appropriate family activities to protect your child from the stresses of modern lives.
8. Limit Screen Time and Teach Media Literacy.
Research shows that all screen usage contributes to our stress levels. TV teaches children that the most important things in life are money, appearance, and fame, which increases their stress levels. Research shows that TV stifles creativity, lowers self-esteem (particularly in girls), and increases violence.
Talk with your kids on an ongoing basis about the media messages that they see. Does this ad make them want to buy that product? What else does it make them feel, and think? (Hint: You and your life are inadequate without this product, which will make you beautiful, popular, and talented.)
Research shows that even when we don’t think we’re influenced by advertising — and most people say they aren’t — we are very likely to act on the ad’s message. That’s scary, but what’s really scary is that corporations spend billions to target our kids, who are even easier prey than we are. Even when we don’t act on advertising messages, we unconsciously respond to the message that we aren’t good enough the way we are.
Children, whose brains function differently than adult brains, are more susceptible to those messages. Limit screen time to protect your child.
But the child stress comes from more than advertising. Studies show that adults and children who watch TV news believe the world is a more dangerous place than it actually is. Seeing TV news increases stress levels, causes nightmares and makes kids more anxious. You might still choose to watch the news, but that doesn’t make it appropriate for children.
Kids under the age of ten are not ready to see in technicolor all the terrible things that happen in the world. Reading the newspaper together is fine, because it isn’t as visceral, and you can help with the interpretation, unlike the unmediated sensationalism of the news. Even middle schoolers need your help to be savvy media interpreters.
What about just playing computer games or Xbox? Games are designed to be addictive. They change brain development. Research shows that many children cannot handle iPad usage without meltdowns, difficulty transitioning, and the need for constant stimulation. If you’re struggling with screens with your child, check out Dr. Victoria Dunckley’s book Reset Your Child’s Brain.
9. Keep phones from becoming yet another tension.
Most adults admit that being at the mercy of the incoming texts on their phones increases their stress level, and research bears this out. If your child has his or her own phone, be sure that it gets parked in the charging station at the front door for most of the time that your child is home, including meals, homework, and after dinner.
Kids need explicit direction that phones are a convenience for THEM and that texts and calls don’t have to be answered immediately. Keep phones away to protect your child from the stresses of modern lives.