Children of all ages are suffering from burnout and it’s starting as early as preschool. This is the number one concern I have picked up around the country amongst school heads, teachers, and parents alike in the past few weeks.

What are we doing? Are our children living in the red zone called overload? If your child has no time for play dates with friends and you no longer have time to play games with each other, then you are in the red zone. Get out, as quickly as you can!

Sensory overload is not something reserved only for children with sensory integration dysfunction – it is becoming an epidemic among many, many families today. Let’s look at why our children may be suffering from a form of sensory overload resulting in early burnout:

  • Too many extra-mural activities from too young an age
  • Too few play dates
  • Too little downtime where they can just potter around and consolidate their thoughts and emotions
  • Too many supervised activities, too few unstructured “free play”
  • Type opportunities
  • Too many marketing messages bombarding them 24/7 enticing them to “buy in” to the values of brands and purchase the products (or nag their parents for them!)
  • Too many choices to make from an early age – this generation are given choices all the time
  • Too many on screen activities available across multiple platforms demanding their attention
  • Too little sleep
  • Too much exposure to inappropriate and possibly disturbing information
  • Too few opportunities to dig deep and be resourceful, stunting their resilience and creativity
  • Too many disturbances at a cellular level due to high frequency security systems, radiation from power lines, WiFi, computers, cellphones etc.

When the demands on us and our children move into the red zone called ‘overload’, it impacts on our communication, our quality of connection and our emotional responses to each other, let alone our energy levels. All of us can become irritable, ratty, stroppy, depressed, hyper, withdrawn, sleep deprived, exhausted. Our children are falling out of touch with themselves as we are with ourselves.

The solution:

  • Parents need to make conscious, sensible, common sense decisions. Protect your children and your family life as well as your own sanity with the choices you make around all of the above.
  • Schools / teachers who are advising parents to reduce the overload and pressure on their children may need to reassess recognition and award structures in their schools. Many are still geared towards children who can do it all, or do a lot very well. Perhaps these structures need to be revised just as we need to revisit what success looks like and what it means against this new backdrop of “too much, too soon” resulting in overload. We are all having to find our feet in our new-look, warp-speed world.
  • Let’s move away from extremes and take the middle road which is a healthily busy child and a workable family life. Family is where hope lives today and we are the values creators in society. If family life is falling apart due to overload, then where are we?

Make sure that your child is not living on the edge or in continual fight or flight. Getting stuck on high revs or in first gear, unable to drop down between periods of high stress and peak performance is dangerous at any age. Let’s reclaim childhood and stand up for our families.

Nikki Bush

Creative parenting expert, inspirational speaker and co-author of Tech-Savvy Parenting (Bookstorm, 2014), Future-proof Your Child (Penguin, 2008), and Easy Answers to Awkward Questions (Metz Press, 2009)