One of my daughter’s best friends is Chinese. Her parents came to the U.S. before she was born, so she is an American citizen. Her mother, on the other hand, is holding on tight to the Chinese culture. This causes heavy distress for Jane* as she tries to make Mom happy while fitting in with her friends. I call this phenomenon, which happens more than you would think, Cultural Gap. Jane is falling right into it.
As I watch how things go in Jane’s household, I realize just how high her mother’s expectations are for her. If she makes an 89 on a paper or test, she gets sent to a tutor. She is expected to excel in all areas, and is taking an art class taught by a famous Chinese artist. As you can imagine, Jane is quite miserable sometimes, and she and her mom butt heads constantly.
In this case, the main player is culture. Jane and her mom are having a tough time navigating between Chinese and American cultures. Yet, I see plenty of American children going through similar experiences, being held to impossible expectations and being punished for a “B”. Just look around on the Internet and you’ll find all kinds of studies about how kids these days are more stressed than ever.
Our readers with kids in school, have you noticed if your child or children are extra stressed? Have you evaluated your expectations? Have you spoken to your child about how he/she is feeling? As parents, we sometimes get so focused on external achievements, like grades and extracurriculars, that we overlook the consequences they can have on our offspring.
One thing that my family does to lower stress is limit our 13 year-old daughter’s extracurriculars to 2 activities. We also went from the “you must take all Pre-AP [advanced placement] classes” to “take whatever classes you can handle.” Our daughter has a special situation. As the child of 2 anxious parents, she has developed OCD. So it is especially important to us to help her manage her stress, and knowing that our expectations are meetable definitely helps.
If you have dealt with, or are currently dealing with, a stressed-out child, what advice would you give to other parents as to how to help manage the stress?
*Name changed to protect privacy