THE BLOG
26/06/2018 23:06 SAST | Updated 26/06/2018 23:07 SAST

Caution: Kids Can Burn Out Too – With Lifelong Consequences

'Burnout in children, if left unchecked, can lead to depression, complete apathy and myriad health issues.'

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Gone are the days when children went to school, came home, made a peanut butter sandwich and went to play with the neighbourhood kids.

Children are naturally high-energy beings, and very little thought is given to the extreme pressures and overloading of activities that our children face today.

As adults, we are familiar with the challenges of physical and emotional burnout, but we do not consider that children are prone to burnout as well. In fact, burnout in children, if left unchecked, can lead to depression, complete apathy and myriad health issues.

Many children are being subjected to competitive and pressured activities all day, every day — and at a pace that most adults would find challenging to keep up.

Ariel Skelley

Academic expectations, sports (school and clubs), cultural and religious studies, extra lessons, music, art, drama, dance ... the list goes on and on ... when packed back-to-back into the daily schedule of children, these can lead to overloaded children becoming exhausted, which may lead to them burning out.

Parents who notice that their children are showing a combination of the following signs may want to consider that their children may be heading towards burnout, or worse, have already burned out.

  • A loss of motivation or desire for activities that they once enjoyed or looked forward to.
  • Anxiety, fearfulness and panic attacks.
  • Fatigue and tearfulness, withdrawn, uncharacteristic tantrums.
  • Feelings of dejection, making excuses or simply refusing to attend activities that they may have enjoyed before.
  • Physical illnesses, loss of appetite, nail-biting.
  • Falling behind in academics or other activities.

Burnout is not something to be taken lightly.

Burnout in children is more prevalent that we may have allowed ourselves to consider before, and it can lead to serious consequences.

Here are a few tips to consider when dealing with burnout in children:

Choose to be a mindful parent

Watch, communicate, listen-with-understanding, acknowledge that something needs to change, and act to help and support your child!

Be aware of child's activities

Honestly, assess the activities or actions that cause stress in your child's life. Work with your child to reduce or stop the activities that cause the greatest stress.

Allow time for your children to just BE

Allow time for rest and reflection, for childish games and laughter. Teach your children the importance of listening to their bodies and making healthy choices for themselves — choices that are uplifting, enjoyable and less pressured.

Play an active role in activities and schedule

Be realistic in terms of how many activities your child is doing every day and every week. Watch for signs of exhaustion. Engender a relationship of non-judgmental communication with your child. Guide, support and teach them positive coping skills (which may or may not involve a change in schedule).

Choose to create balance in your and your children's lives

There is no advantage or positive learning that can take place from overloading a child. It is important for children to learn a variety of skills as they grow, but be aware of how much is expected of them — too much can be counterproductive.

Burnout in children is more prevalent that we may have allowed ourselves to consider before, and it can lead to serious consequences.

As parents, it is essential that we acknowledge that children can and will burn out if their lives are out of balance and the signs are left unchecked.