The Exhausted Child

The National Sleep Foundation says that 30 percent of preschoolers don’t get enough sleep, and a recently released study by the University of Colorado at Boulder found that sleep deprived young children consume 20 percent more calories than usual. 

Do you know when your child is exhausted? And we’re not talking drowsy heady after a marathon day at an amusement park.

Did your child wake up at an early hour to accommodate your work schedule and then head to school, after-care, dance, piano, homework time, and finally, Dad’s house for dinner? Think about your child’s weekly schedule. How much time a day is spent on instrument practice, sports practice, homework, religious instruction, and chores? As children get older there is the addition of test prep, college applications, tournaments, and perhaps a part-time job.

What happens when mom and dad are divorced and there is back and forth between homes, possible step-siblings, and parental tension?

As the author of Unlocking Parental Intelligence and a psychoanalyst for more than 30 years, these are the ten signs I look out for in children:

  1. Increased crying and tantrums
  2. Acting out in school
  3. Not getting enjoyment out of certain activities they used to love
  4. Loss of appetite or overeating
  5. Telling you they are tired or bored when they’ve had enough sleep
  6.  Increased fears
  7. Withdrawing into their rooms for too long
  8. Erratic sleeping or wanting you to sleep with them
  9. Losing interest in friendships
  10. Seeming to lose a sense of pleasure and vigor in general

It’s important to recognize that enriching your child’s life with violin lessons and art classes is not the problem at hand. The problem is not giving our children enough time to just be kids–to play, act silly, build bunkers under the dining room table, and as they get older, hang with their friends. Dare we say—do what they want to do.

I believe that we are so goal oriented that we forget that everyone in the house needs time with no agenda. Additionally, parents need to curb their own anxieties about their children’s performance in their various activities. The love we give should be unconditional, not merit-based.

How should a parent handle their child’s extracurricular life? Here are six tips for listening to your child about their life outside of school: 

  1. Don’t scrutinize and judge your child’s performance on their activities.
  2. Watch what you say about school activities, so you don’t push for a competitive edge too hard.
  3. Make sure children have free time to do what they want to do.
  4. Take a step back and don’t react immediately when you see puzzling behavior (When you have “parental intelligence” a parent considers: “How can you know what to do about a misbehavior before you understand it?”)
  5. Collaborate with your child about which extracurricular activities they prefer.
  6. Value your child’s thoughts, opinions, points of view, and desires by listening carefully to them without interrupting until they are really finished with what they have to say.

Exhausted kids have exhausted parents and this leads to unnecessary arguments and rushing about instead of finding time to talk to each other, build self-esteem, feel proud as a parent and strengthen the parent-child bond.

Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior

In Unlocking Parental Intelligence, long-experienced psychoanalyst, Laurie Hollman, PhD, encourages parents to find the significance behind their child’s behaviors by becoming “meaning-makers.” Parental Intelligence is explained through compelling and empathic story-telling that answers parents’ questions: “Why do children do what they do? “ “What’s on their minds?” “How can parents know their child’s inner world?"

Through a clear five-step approach, parents discover the power and wisdom of a new parenting mindset that helps them learn what their kids think, want, intend and feel. They see actions as communications. They are rewarded with open parent-child dialogue about the underlying problems hidden beneath the behaviors. As they problem solve, parents discover misbehaviors are not only meaningful, but a catalyst to change.

Parents and professionals alike will find a new parenting approach from this invaluable book that will reshape families’ lives and guide them through all stages of typical and atypical child development. This accessible read enlightens, uplifts, and relieves while cultivating critical thinking on the part of parents and children as they wrestle with the common, and sometimes desperate vexations of family life. 

About Dr. Laurie Hollman

Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst with specialized clinical training in infant-parent, child, adolescent, and adult psychotherapy. She has been on the faculties of New York University and the Society for Psychoanalytic Study and Research, among others. She has written extensively on parenting for various publications, including the Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, The International Journal of Infant Observation, The Inner World of the Mother, Newsday’s Parents & Children Magazine, Long Island Parent. She also wrote her popular column, PARENTAL INTELLIGENCE, at Moms Magazine and has been a parenting expert for numerous publications such as Good Housekeeping and Bustle Lifestyle. She currently writes for Active Family Magazine (San Francisco) and blogs for Huffington Post. Her new book is Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior. To learn more, visit