Kids Growing Up Too Fast


Kids Growing Up Too Fast
Kids Growing Up Too Fast
In every youthful generation, there has been a desire to appear more mature,
more sophisticated and worldly. As well, there have been many age-old factors that contributed to young people leaving behind their carefree childhood
days for a grown-up world. But, today, with our changing society, our children’s childhood is being compressed to where children are not children for
very long.
Through the media, children are exposed to sex, violence, inappropriate language and behaviour. They are the TV audience of adult-themed cartoons,
sitcoms where the characters have casual sex, and dramas of increasing violence. Magazines contain suggestive advertising and feature scantily clad
teen idols. Some popular teeny-bopper music contains sexually explicit and
degrading lyrics.
Children are certainly exposed to far more information than the children of 50
years ago, and it’s available to them, through electronic media, 24-hours a
day. As a result, many children are concerned about adult worries – AIDs,
war, terrorism. Some of the information, like AIDs – is a safety precaution for our children. But, knowing information and
understanding the complexities of that information, are two different things.
The Department of Health and Human Services reports that of Grade 7 & 8 students (ages 12 and 13), 12% reported
smoking marijuana, 16% reported using other illicit drugs, a little over 20% reported having been drunk at least once,
16.9% had suicidal thought, and 8.4% attempted suicide at least once. “We connect these issues with the adult population,” says MOSAIC Counsellor Jasna Mudrinic, “not a population of children. These are drastic ways of our kids growing
up too fast.”
Further, with more dual-income and single parent families, mothers are strongly embedded in the workforce. Geographically, families are disbursed, so other adult family members are not available to help take care of the children. More and
more, children – often 12 and 13-year-olds – become responsible for themselves and sometimes younger siblings,
rather than an adult support structure.
Pre-teens have also become an economic force and are the target of marketers with messages of how they should look
and what they should possess. Many have their own cell phones, ATM and credit cards. They hang out at the malls and
shop for their own clothes, accessories, music and drugstore items.
Facing an ever-growing competitive world, parents also strive to provide their children with the best edge, placing emphasis on grades and an overwhelming number of extra-curricular activities. Many children’s daily schedules rival that of
their parents. They are involved in so many extra-curricular activities, they have no down time to just explore and use
their imagination. They lose that wonderful childish and fancy-free wonder about the world. At a young age our children
have to develop time management skills, follow a daily agenda and experience the stress that goes along with a busy
schedule and the pressure to succeed.
Some would say, the world is changing, that kids have a much harder world and by encountering maturing experiences,
we are simply preparing them to face reality. However, says Jasna, “I think this way of thinking is more counterproductive than useful. We need to balance that recognition with the fact that all children need to be nurtured according
to their development and that we need to make a concerted effort to allow our children to be children.”
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So just how do we help our children sustain their childhood?
While there are outside influences over which we have no control, Jasna has these suggestions to help parents slow-down
this aging child syndrome.
Stay in touch with your child’s world. You don’t have to embrace every change, but don’t try to stop every difference.
Read their magazines and books to learn the concerns of their age group. Watch television programs and movies with
them. Listen to their music and see if the lyrics coincide with your family values.
Take an active interest in and share their interests. Develop common interests.
Involve yourself in their world – even playing video games. On the flipside, introduce them to the things you like to do.
Talk to their teachers and guidance counsellors who are extensively exposed to
this age group. They may have more insight into the average behaviour of this
age group.
Make sure you know your children’s friends and, if possible, their parents. They
also provide another view and you can compare if your child is growing up too
fast. Peers have strong influence. If you find there are children in your daughter’s grade three class who are wearing make-up and sexy clothes, discourage
that kind of play and encourage relationships with the children with whom you
want her to cultivate friendships. At this stage, you can still have a strong influence.
Keep communication lines open. Slow down the pace and take time to talk and listen. Ask questions, like What do you
think of these guys dressing like this? Why do they dress that way? So what is happening that makes you believe you
are ready to accept this responsibility?
Find time to have easy-going, unstructured playtime with your kids. Bike to the park to just hang out on monkey bars or
swing on the swings. Read stories. Even take a walk around the block.
Make fun a priority. Be silly. Spend time laughing with your children. Demonstrate that an adult can be child-like too.
Decide when the time is right for grown-up fashions, hairstyles, make-up and dating. This will vary from family to family
depending on each family’s beliefs and the nature of the child.
Limit television viewing and plan ahead for the week. Don’t furnish children’s bedrooms with televisions and VCRs.
Television viewing should take place where you can monitor what and how much they are watching. Consider having
an “unplugged” day without TV, computers or electronic games – just family time.
Don’t overburden your children’s schedules. Limit their number of afterschool activities and keep your own competitiveness in check. Ask yourself
why you are signing your child up for the activity - is it because you really
think your child is going to be the next Wayne Gretzky or is it for fun, friendship, self-esteem and skills building?
Look at your family’s needs versus wants and break it down into ageappropriate material goods. Do you really need a cell phone when you’re thirteen?
Encourage your children to enjoy and celebrate the age they are. This is it –
this is the only time you’re ever going to be 10. You’re young and alive and
it’s wonderful! Draw them a spectrum of the decades. Here’s how long you
might live. Here’s how much time you have to be a child and a teenager. And,
here’s how long you are going to be an adult. Enjoy being a kid; it’s too short
a time over the whole spectrum of your life to rush through. Not only is visualizing the spectrum helpful to the child, it puts into perspective for parents the
importance of slowing down and encouraging our youngsters to truly enjoy
their childhood and youth.
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