I have seen this question asked in multiple parenting groups recently. All a variation around this question:
“My 5 year old seems to be really struggling lately. She is having massive meltdowns and tantrums every day after kindy and is so exhausted that we are unable to do anything fun on weekends!
Her teacher reports that she is doing great at school.
She is keeping up academically, has a great little group of friends and no obvious issues while there. But at home she is a nightmare!
Is this normal?”
The resounding consensus from other parents is: yes, that’s what a lot of kids go through in their first year of full-time school. It is exhausting for them to learn all day, follow rules, negotiate new friendships etc. Dozens of parents chimed in with similar stories of children screaming every afternoon for six months.
“Don’t worry, it’s normal. Kids are exhausted by term 2”
“The teacher told me most kids go through this”
“They are just so tired from school”
“The same thing happens in Year 1. But it gets easier every year”
I would like to offer an alternative view. Yes, it seems common but that doesn’t mean it’s normal!
As a society, do we really think it’s acceptable for our small children to be this exhausted and stressed every single day?
If I was this tired and stressed every night, my husband and family would be extremely worried. There would be talks about fatigue, burnout, stress, anxiety, possibly depression. Concerns about my mental wellbeing. Discussions about needing to change something. Find a new job, drop un-necessary activities, visit a psychologist or GP.
But in a 5 year old? “Nope, all the kids in my daughter's class are the same”. What is wrong with our society!?!
If this is as widespread as these discussions suggest, why aren’t we stopping to say this isn’t okay? Is full-time school just too much for children at this age? Are the academic expectations too high? Are we giving our children enough time for free play, enough time to run around outdoors?
If the whole point of school is learning, how much is a chronically exhausted child going to learn anyway?
I am so sad to live in a society where we feel it’s “normal” for our 5 year olds to be so drained.
What do you think? Are our school starting ages too young? Are we expecting too much from our little ones? Should we be looking for alternatives?