Jennifer DuBose, M.S.,
C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private
practice in Batavia and writes a monthly column for Chicago
Avoid tantrums before they start
When a child is gay
When to stop going on your kids' field trips
The myth that lazy afternoons spent "doing nothing"
is a colossal waste of time has prompted many well-intended parents
to load up their kids' schedules-with everything from ballet
classes and piano lessons to math enrichment and volunteer work.
Top it all off with a heavy dose of after-school and summer day
care, and before they even know what they're missing, little Johnny
and tiny Sue have been robbed of one of the fundamental perks of
childhood: the joy of discovery.
So what if others with Ivy League aspirations for their
children are racing to beef up their preschoolers' resumes? I have
a hunch there's a better way to grow a well-rounded
And I say we leave it to the kids to discover it for
I recall an afternoon a few years ago when my kids
announced they were bored. Instead of rushing in with a solution, I
left them to their own devices. They conjured up a game they called
"don't touch the carpet," where they stood on one blanket and
tossed pillows and whatever else they could find onto the floor,
creating "stepping stones." They still occasionally wend their way
around the house, giggling and shrieking, as they collaborate and
decide how far apart the stones should be to avoid falling
"Falling into what?" I recently asked my son. Come to find
out, they've never even discussed it.
"It's sort of implied what happens," Noah said, smiling.
So fantasy is involved, that wonderfully magical, childish doorway
to dreams and possibilities.
If allowed to blossom, fantasy play and other
self-initiated activities inspire children to develop unique
interests and problem-solving skills, and later, to become
interesting adults equipped with the tools to create their own
happiness. Isn't necessity the mother of invention? For the typical
child, no to-do list of enrichment activities or motherlode of
high-tech toys will ever match the confidence he can gain from
charting his own course.
Childhood is not a race. And sometimes, less is more. Way
This doesn't mean you should cut out all extracurricular
activities or feel guilty for finding something for your kids to do
that gets them out of your hair every once in a while. I'm just
suggesting you strive for more balance between structured and
Children need time to unwind and process what they've
already learned and experienced and to recharge their batteries.
They need downtime, but many don't get any. The values of
productivity, perfection and competition have so mesmerized our
society that many of our children are now suffering as a
consequence. Overbooked kids complain of tummy aches, headaches,
difficulty sleeping or concentrating in school, anxiety,
irritability or anger. More frequent meltdowns happening? A clear
sign that your child is overstimulated. When he says, "I just want
to stay home and play with my friends," you should
He's got plenty of time to be an adult. But this childhood
gig? It's ever fleeting. Let it be.
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.
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