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Hey Parents, Leave Us Kids Alone

Picture this: A nine-year-old boy is delirious with joy after getting permission from his mother to play with his friends in the evening. He rejoices at the thought of having no classes to attend that evening and exclaims that he is finally free! Freedom and a child—ironic? Well, the poor chap has a hectic day at school and then comes home late afternoon and hurries with his homework, studies and again rushes to get ready for his next engagement: extra-curricular activities—keyboard classes, abacus, guitar or skating classes; one or two lined up as a daily evening activity. Kids nowadays have quite a handful. So what’s keeping them on their toes these days?

It all boils down to achieving the maximum in the shortest possible time. After having to complete the studies and various projects, children are enrolled in various classes to further their skills; while some join music classes, others land up taking up sports coaching, taekwondo or karate sessions. Some activities are surely of their interest but many a times, various pastimes are forced upon the children. Initially the pursuits are out of sheer excitement, but later the kids find themselves stuck in a daily boring grind. The moot point here is, are we over-burdening our children? Are we taking away his/her ‘me time’? Are we going against the idea of just letting them be?

In the earlier days, life was not so mechanical, and children were left to their own devices. But today, children have to be on their toes the moment they get up. It’s a paradigm shift with parents wanting their kids to learn as much as they can while they can. Sunita Mehra, a Delhi-based work-from-home mom says, “I haven’t enrolled my children (two boys) for any classes. Where do they have the time? The weekly exams, projects and home work keeps them busy and I don’t have the heart to send them for various classes again. I think the extra-curricular activities in school are good enough.” But not many think in line with Sunita. Anju Chowdhary, a Gurgaon-based homemaker says, “I definitely want my child to be ahead of others in all areas of life. If he or she can learn something extra and worthwhile, then why not.”

Is this attitude of the parents putting a lot of pressure on the kids? Arnav Singh, a class V student joined a daily evening coaching at a local tennis academy. He’s now bored of going every day. He says, “I envy my friends who get to play in the evening in the neighborhood. It’s so much fun. But I can’t. My mom wants me to go to my coaching classes every day and has also asked me to join abacus classes. Earlier, I was excited about tennis, but now I am unhappy with my routine.” Pratibha, Arnav’s mother says that “It is this age and time when kids can learn and grasp everything easily. They play enough in school. In this competitive world, I can’t let my children lag behind. I know Arnav misses out on playing with his friends, but I have to compromise on this.”

A tug-of-war situation has arisen where parents are trying to pull their kids and get them to pursue various activities whereas kids want to play freely with their friends. Child counselor Smita Chaubey says, “It is a sad situation these days. I have a lot of parents coming to me with cases of how their kids have become non-performers while earlier they used to do really well in games and sports. It is mainly due to the unwarranted pressure that parents put on kids and want them to be jack of all traits.”

V. Rajitha, a Gurgaon-based homemaker enrolled her eleven-year-old son Aditya in a cricket academy but logistic issues forced her to withdraw him. “Initially Aditya was sad,” she says, “Since he is very good at cricket, I was apprehensive about his reaction. But after a couple of days of playing with his friends in the residential block, he is very happy. After all, it’s the smile on his face at the end of day that matters the most to me.”

There aren’t many kids who are as lucky as Aditya. Many don’t even get the time to sit and chat with their family. In today’s competitive world, it is the kids who are bearing the brunt of the rat race. Gurgaon-based Clinical Psychologist, Sanjana Saraf adds “Children are heavily over-burdened these days. This prevents them from engaging in healthy, regular interactions with friends which is necessary for a healthy personality development. The heavy stress of expectations from parents is leaving children prone to various problems like anxiety and depression and sometimes culminating in suicidal attempts.”

In our quest to give the best to our kids (in terms of learning and education), the parents are compromising on the kids’ childhood, their time and their innocence. “It is always better to have a democratic approach when deciding what should be enough for the kids. Too much stress and pressure can hamper the growth of the child,” Child Counselor Smita Chaubey asserts.

Parents should take into account the child’s interests, strengths and weaknesses before taking decisions for the child’s pursuits in areas of hobbies. The intense competition, the rat race has left kids with excessive expectations from themselves; which when under-performed can cause havoc to the child’s well-being and the state of mind. The parents need to ask themselves— Is it really worth it? Will there be another childhood for your child to experience?

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