How to Keep the Child in Childhood

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Image via Katie Hurley

From endless activities to music with warnings to fashion fit for teens (if that), some families are fast tracking childhood. Childhood moves pretty quickly, but when little girls are dressing like much older girls, children are lacking playtime, and parents are exposing children to music meant for adults, it's hard for kids to be kids. It's important for children to work through their own development at their own pace, with age appropriate choices along the way.

Fast tracking childhood is confusing for kids. Books, music, and movies meant for older children contain themes and imagery that younger children aren't prepared to process. When kids are constantly reaching beyond their developmental level, they might not master the skills for their current developmental level.

Letting kids be kids is the best way to help kids grow.

Father and daughter enjoy park day
Image via iStock

Slow down:

It's entirely possible that your mini soccer star will grow up to be a bigger soccer star one day, but not if you burn him out early. Yes, there are endless athletic programs for tots these days, but that doesn't mean that your little athlete should participate in every single one.

Slow down. Playing at the park is just as important as participating in organized classes, and it has the added benefit of working on social skills in real time. In the context of classes and groups, social interactions are guided by instructors. When kids form groups to play at the park (yes, even in the tot lot), they work on social skills more independently.

Kids need plenty of time to play alone, to play with siblings, to play with parents, and to play with other kids. Resist the urge to enroll in every program available so that your child has the time to master developmental tasks at his own pace.

{ MORE: Lost the Pacifier? Here's How to Cope! }

toddler reading with mom
Image via iStock

Look for ratings and reviews:

If I'm being honest, I loved the Harry Potter series. I read the books to connect with my clients when Harry Potter swept the nation, but I found that I truly enjoyed getting lost in a world of magical adventures. I can't wait to read them to my daughter, but she isn't ready yet.

While it's tempting to dive into our childhood favorites with our own children, it's important to ensure that our kids are prepared for the content. Kids look to their imaginations to fill in the blanks when they don't understand things, and that can lead to fears and anxiety.

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Choose content that is age appropriate to help your child work through new themes and concepts with confidence and understanding.

Getting Your Toddler Dressed
Image via iStock

Dress the part:

If I had one wish for kids' clothing it would be that high heels for little girls would leave this world right now. The truth is that heels aren't healthy for growing children, and yet they're out there. And that's just the tip of the inappropriate fashions iceberg.

When boundaries are blurred, confusion ensues. Am I twelve or am I six? I can't tell you how many parents come to me with complaints about first graders acting like middle school students, and yet those first graders go off to school in clothes fit for teens. Establishing age appropriate boundaries helps kids stay within their range of development and enjoy childhood while it lasts.

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What's your take? What else have you done to avoid rushing kids through childhood?

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How to Keep the Child in 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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