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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

5 Reasons Why Children Need Down Time, Especially During the School Year

The start of a new school year can be stressful for everyone. It doesn't matter if you are the parent or the child; the change in routine, figuring out new expectations, and finding the rhythm of a new school year can be tough. During this time, it is important that we rest. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but it's true: Rest and downtime are important, especially at the beginning of a new school year. Here's why:

1. High stress correlates with increased anxiety and difficulty focusing.

Stress and anxiety often go hand in hand. Students experiencing high stress-levels in September may be nervous about meeting the expectations of a new teacher or anxious about the course material, so much so that stress may evolve into anxiety over school. The anxiety may manifest in a variety of ways, including insomnia, headaches, and nausea. Difficulty focusing is also a byproduct of stress, as a student may be too focused on how prepared they are and what might be coming next that they aren't present or able to participate in the classroom.

2. Children experience burnout too, which may extinguish their passions for various activities and lead to boredom.

As an employee might experience burnout, so can students. If you stop to think about it, it makes sense that that is so: Being a student is, in essence, their full-time job. When a student is burnt out, they may lose interest in the activities they really enjoy because they simply have no energy left to put into those things. The mental and physical load of school is taxing and without consciously setting aside time to relieve some of the stress through healthy, fulfilling activities, they can quickly take a backseat to academics. Over time, the falling away of interests and activities may contribute to depression.

3. Children need time to be "bored", meaning they need the freedom to find ways to play and entertain themselves. This is important in childhood and in adulthood.

Boredom can be a powerful motivator and helps students to tap into their own natural creativity. Often times boredom is viewed as a negative, but when given the freedom and lack of direction that contributes to being bored, students may begin to explore their options to a greater extent. This strengthens them to think in different ways and approach problems in new ways without being led to an immediate resolution. The skill of problem-solving cultivated through boredom in childhood can serve them well into adulthood.

4. When children spend too much time on schoolwork and sports practice, they miss out on crucial family bonding time.

When school begins, soon follows football season, soccer, lacrosse, and basketball. Whichever sport a student plays, it means time spent at practice and games, both of which may take away from family dinners and time spent catching up with kids. The loss of family time may strain the family dynamic. In order to make sure the family stays connected, it is important to sit down weekly and coordinate schedules to find a day and time that works to catch up. Sports seasons are also great opportunities to come out in support of each other. Make it a point to show up games whenever possible.

5. Freedom and play give children time to process what they have learned throughout the day in a functional, healthy way.

The freedom to play affords children the opportunity to stretch their imaginations in a safe way. Dynamic play/pretend play is when children play out different roles and scenarios. This type of play can help them to process real-life events and builds their confidence in their decision-making skills. If a child is anxious, dynamic play can also help them work through potential outcomes and prepare to accept real-life outcomes in real life.

Learn More:

Is Your Child Overscheduled?

Overscheduled Kids

Play at School

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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