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Too Much, Too Soon

Too Much, Too SoonThink your children are growing up too fast? Tufts child development expert David Elkind agrees. Medford/Somerville, Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [04.30.04] Band practice, dance lessons, tutoring...sound like the busy schedule of a high school senior? Try a nine-year-old. According to Tufts' internationally known child development expert David Elkind, kids' lives are getting increasingly hectic - creating strain for children and parents alike.

"There's a lot of stress in children's lives," Elkind, author of "The Hurried Child," told Boston's WBZ News. Elkind is a professor at Tufts' Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development, one of the world's premier centers for the study of how children grow and learn.

According to Elkind, a combination of factors - including the mass media, school systems and new technologies - are adding pressure to children's lives and causing many to take on too many responsibilities before they are ready.

And parents who want to ensure their kids are well equipped for the future - with lessons, extra tutoring and other activities - can also add to the "hurried" lives of their children.

"A very natural intuition in those kinds of circumstances is to say earlier is better, let's prepare and give them everything they can," Elkind told the Toronto Star. "Which works against that sense of ‘Let children be children.'"

Piling on too much too soon not only takes away from time for free play - which Elkind says is an important activity for children - it can also add strain that kids aren't ready to handle.

"Whenever you have a lot of pressures on kids - when they don't have enough time to play and just relax - stress [and stress symptoms] come out," Elkind - who recently gave a lecture in Canada entitled "Growing Up Stressed Out" - told WBZ.

The extra pressure doesn't just affect kids, says the Tufts professor. It can also drain their parents.

"It's a very difficult time to be a parent and I think it's getting more difficult," Elkind told the Star.

The Tufts professor, who authored the groundbreaking book "The Hurried Child" in 1981, says the pace of childhood has become even faster since the publication of his book, which has been revised and updated twice since its original release.

"I think there's a whole new generation of parents now who are beginning to be concerned about these things," Elkind told the Star.

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