Why too much family togetherness might be stressing out kids

Parents aren’t the only ones who feel like hiding in a closet. Here’s why children might need a break from family, too.

Is there such a thing as too much togetherness? Sarah Anderson’s 11-year-old son would say yes—especially during a pandemic. Like many families in 2020, the Andersons were working and learning from a crowded home. But when squabbles arose between her two boys, Anderson’s eldest son would slip outside to the family’s Roswell, Georgia, backyard and act out stories and movies he made up in his head.

“He would tell us he was going to log on to his ‘brain app,’” Anderson says. After about 20 minutes, he’d come back inside, more relaxed, talkative, and ready to hang out with the family again.

Turning inward is not something parents typically encourage in children, but recent research suggests we should perhaps rethink that. Before pandemic lockdowns, children were busier than ever with school and organized activities, and well-meaning parents often arranged playdates or family activities to fill any gaps in the schedule. With those activities still limited and parents working remotely, many families have been in a state of near-constant togetherness for more than a year.

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