3 Ways to Stop Rushing Your Kids Through Childhood

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A mom called me for an appointment with her four-year-old son because of anxiety that seemed “out of the blue”. He was always a good sleeper. He plays a lot. He goes to preschool three mornings a week, where he plays even more. He was happy, healthy and silly … until he wasn’t. To this mom, the change seemed to take place while the boy was sleeping.

We talked for a while about older siblings, age appropriate fears for preschoolers, and what kinds of transitions might have triggered some worries (which mostly impacted him at night). After listening for a while, a pattern emerged. The little boy’s brothers are older than him. Although mom does her best to separate big kid and little kid stuff, he is sometimes exposed to big kid stuff. Like the time he watched Star Wars: Episode VII.

Excited to watch a “family movie”, they all watched the movie together. The thing is, that movie is not really intended for any of those kids, especially not a four-year-old. It’s rated PG-13 and Common Sense Media suggests that it’s appropriate for ages 10+. As it turns out, some of the scenes in the movie were just too much for this little boy, and his active imagination triggered fears in response to the content.

Believe it or not, this kind of thing happens a lot. Young girls watch shows developed with tweens and teens in mind. Kindergarteners watch Harry Potter. Kids of all ages play video games beyond their developmental level. And the stress of jumping ahead results in new worries and big emotions that are difficult to process.

People love to talk about the perils of helicopter parenting and permissive parenting, but what about the pushing down of childhood?

What about the race to the finish? It isn’t all academics – this racing kids through the early years thing. It’s sports, enrichment, and media consumption. Kids are on fast-forward, and they’re experiencing big worries as a result.

What can parents do? Follow these steps.

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3 Ways to Stop Rushing Your Kids Through Childhood

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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