Research indicates that children and teenagers are under greater stress, and developing more anxiety, than they did 20 years ago.
Today's teenagers face tougher competition for college admissions and often higher expectations from their parents. Alvin Rosenfeld, MD, former director of the child psychiatry training program at Stanford University, has even coined a term for what's going on: hyper-parenting.
How should you encourage your children to excel, without pushing them too hard? Here are six tips from Rosenfeld, author of The Over-scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-parenting Trap, and Nadine Kaslow, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University in Atlanta.
1. Encourage kids, then back off. "Encourage kids to engage in activities, give them opportunities to try different things," says Kaslow. Sign them up for the first six weeks of lessons. "You don't want them to be video junkies or couch potatoes," she says. But back off if it isn't working. "Be open with them. If they don't want to continue, don't push it."
2. Make sure life has balance. "Everyone, adults and children, needs balance between work and play," Kaslow says.
3. Encourage self-reliance. Let your teen be somewhat self-sufficient at home. "Let them take responsibility for their own activities, create their own schedule," says Rosenfeld. "This is not about being cop -- especially if they are responsible, trustworthy kids."
4. Enjoy your own adult life. This provides kids with an attractive model to emulate, Rosenfeld says. "Parents who enjoy each other are happier, more relaxed, and can be more genuinely generous."
5. Let kids be bored sometimes. Boredom stimulates inner life, creativity, and imagination, says Rosenfeld. Kids need downtime to think, discover, imagine, and hear their inner voice.
6. Show appreciation. Let your kids know they are good, intelligent, deeply loved and they will grow up successfully. "In my experience, if a parent has a deep inner conviction that the kid will do well in life, the kid will do well," says Rosenfeld. "Know your kid and have faith in who they are."