Parents beware. Our children look like they’re holding it together in Kindergarten through 2nd grade, but there’s a growing phenomenon occurring now called third-grade burnout. By the beginning of third grade, many of our children, exposed too soon to too much academic material grow weary of the system. They become run down, stressed out, and actually experience a burnout that many of us adults know too well in our own lives. Though they want to be “big boys” and “big girls” that can do homework like their older siblings and friends, they soon tire of the demands and expectations that their brain isn’t ready for yet. The neuroscience points to plenty of play as essential to brain growth and development, yet there is very little time for play in a system that promotes “teaching to the test” – statewide testing that insists on “leaving no child behind” – whatever that means.

As a response to this approach to education, many parents are deciding to start their children in Kindergarten at 6 years of age (as opposed to the typical 5 years of age), which I applaud enthusiastically. Knowing how the brain develops, functions, and is impacted by stress, I see this as an important option that I, too, am adopting for my son. I urge more parents to begin to notice the effect early exposure to academics has on many of our children, so they find their own way to protect against this. There are many alternative programs that understand the neuroscience and provide a wonderful antidote to the system. At the very least, we can give our children an extra year of play so their brain is more mature and thereby at a greater state of readiness for what is currently required. Please read my newest book, “You Can Heal Your Child: A Guide for Parents of Misdiagnosed, Stressed, Traumatized, and Otherwise Misunderstood Children” to understand more about the effects of stress on our children and what we, as parents, can do about it.