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2018 May

Simplify, Simplify

Kids are stressed today—way more stressed than we ever were. What’s causing our kids to feel so strung out? Pressure to succeed, issues with friends and peers at school, family life—the list goes on. Plus there’s the constant need to feel connected and up-to-date on social media.

A recent study reveals disturbing trends. Over three-quarters (84%) of 10- to 14-year olds admit they often experience stress—as defined by feelings of worry or anxiety that lead to changes in behavior (i.e., difficulty sleeping, bad dreams, or reduced confidence and concentration.)

And what are kids doing to cope with stress? Most kids in this study answered that they play video games to relieve stress (43%). Next on the list? Eating food they like (36%) followed by lying in bed for long periods (28%) or just staying alone in their rooms (27%).

It kind of makes you wonder what the future holds for our children, doesn’t it?

Where’s your child right now? Playing video games? Hanging out alone in his or her room? Connected to a smartphone or computer? No wonder our kids are stressed. They need to learn healthy coping mechanisms, and as parents, we need to teach them.

Interestingly, the study asked whether having access to the outdoors would help make a difference in their stress levels, and over three-quarters (83%) of the children said that being outdoors surrounded by nature would make them feel happier.

It’s a no-brainer. Being outside where the smells, sights, and sounds of nature are like a balm to our busy minds is the perfect antidote to stress for adults and children. When did you and your child last play outside? If you can’t remember, then it’s time to make a play date with your son or daughter.

Being outside can be so much fun. I personally loved hiking with my sons when they were little. We would bring a picnic and go to our favorite spot in First Landing State Park, where the live oaks are perfect for climbing. Or we’d bring our bikes and take off through the woods, where the Spanish moss dangles from the trees and birds fly overhead. 

Henry David Thoreau wrote about the simple pleasures of life and personified his own admonition to “simplify, simplify.” Maybe this is something we can teach our children: that the more complicated our lives become, the more we need to seek out the simple pleasures of life. It’s called balance, and in today’s stressful world, it’s essential.

Talk to your child about ways to simplify life. Maybe it’s replacing time spent on electronic devices with bike rides or hikes in the woods. Plan now to get outside with your family and rediscover what it’s like to have fun together.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there and keep up the good work!

Peggy Sijswerda

Peggy Sijswerda is the editor and co-publisher of Tidewater Family and Tidewater Women magazines. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Old Dominion University and is the author of Still Life with Sierra, a travel memoir. Peggy also freelances for a variety of regional, national, and international magazines.

Website: www.peggysijswerda.com