'Mummy, the year is going so quickly': Should we be rushing our kids? by Kasey Edwards, interview with Georgina Manning
“The year is going so quickly,” remarked my daughter. I couldn’t disagree with her, but still, I was shocked by the words coming out of her mouth. She’s ten for heaven’s sake!
Childhood is supposed to feel like it stretches on forever. The gap between the two Annual Chocolate Festivals (aka Easter and Christmas) used to feel interminable.
Children are now lamenting the speed of time. But now my daughter tells me last Christmas feels like yesterday. Is her childhood being ruined? Lamenting the speed of time was only supposed to happen when you got old. It turns out, it’s not just my daughter who is concerned about the perception of time. According to educational and developmental psychologist Deborah Jepsen from Melbourne Child Psychology & School Psychology Services, even if you haven’t heard your child express it directly, they still could be feeling it.
“Kids will express it by saying how quickly the term has gone, or say, ‘It’s already the end of term!’ ” Jepsen says. Scientists have advanced a number of reasons for the perception that life is speeding up. These include the slowing of our “internal clocks” like metabolism and heart rate as we age, which makes time seem to go faster, or a reduction in the amount of information our brains process in later years.
These theories about ageing and the perception of time make me feel like I’m on the express route to a nursing home. I’m 43 and it feels like we should still be in April. But what does it say about our kids and the world we have created for them? We can’t blame this one on genes and biology.
Georgina Manning, director of Wellbeing For Kids says that children are feeling as though their lives are very rushed, and rushing adds to the perception that time is speeding up. “Children are often being rushed from one thing to the next without any down time to just 'be' and slow down and live in the moment,” she says.
“Rather than ‘being’, children are often in 'doing mode', moving from one task to the next, often on autopilot, creating a sense of urgency which can trigger children’s stress response. '
“Being hurried from one activity to the next each day, without this essential time for play must be exhausting and overstimulating with no time left to process the day, reflect and make sense of our day's experiences,” Manning says.
In addition to over-scheduling our kids, Sophi Bruce from The School of Life blames the sense some children feel of time rushing by on overstimulating and overloading our kids with too much information from devices, and constant interruptions from online messages, adverts, banners, and likes.
“As children’s brains are being stimulated at a quicker rate, their brain becomes used to being stimulated but can’t actually handle the level of information so it is in a greater cycle of trying to catch up,” Bruce says.
Does it actually matter that our kids feel like time is flying by them? There's no doubt that a large part of my shock in hearing my daughter’s comments came from nostalgia for my own childhood and the “good old days”. As a parent you wonder do we really have to add our children’s perception of time to our long lists of things we have to worry about?
According to Bruce, we would benefit from putting down our own generational lenses on time and letting go of comparing our childhoods to that of our children’s. But if the pace of life is having negative consequences on our children’s wellbeing then we shouldn’t ignore it.
“It’s problematic if children display signs of stress or withdrawal due to feeling overwhelmed or have negative perceptions of themselves in terms of what they can’t achieve (a distorted sense of time gives us a distorted sense of success),” says Bruce.
Psychologist Jepsen suggests parents dial back the scheduling and planning and try to spend a little more time enjoying the ‘now’. “If we focus too much on the next step, the next term, the next event we can create anxiety in our kids by overthinking,” she says.
Bruce suggests parents think about the lessons they are teaching their children about time through their own behaviour and language. Constantly telling kids "there’s not enough time", "we’re late", and "we haven’t got all day" sends the message to our kids that life is moving too fast.
One answer might be found in our own childhood: long stretches of boredom where our parents did not feel compelled to entertain us, improve us, or pay other adults to cram as much knowledge and skills into us as possible were common for many of us. “Boredom slows down time and opens up opportunity for creativity,” Bruce says.
It seems counter intuitive in these times of uber-competitive education, status anxiety, and the frenzy of tutoring and extracurricular activities, but what our kids actually need from us is less, not more.
Kasey Edwards is the author of the children's series The Chess Raven Chronicles under the pen name Violet Grace.