My kid is under a lot of pressure to succeed at everything, what can I do as a parent to help him relax?

Whether your child is in high school or kindergarten, the pressure to succeed is palpable.

It might be the desire to earn a gold star in kindergarten or a college scholarship in high school, but the result is the same: stress.

Kids are not the only ones under this type of strain. Adults, too, are expected to succeed in myriad ways.

Our raise at work may be dependent on our production or our numbers or our evaluation results; our opportunities to help at church and in the community may be determined by how we measure up in the volunteer coordinator’s eyes; even our success as a spouse or a parent is scrutinized by our workmates, fellow parishioners and especially our own extended family.

Maintain Godly perspective

To address such a deep and broad topic as quickly as possible, we go to the heart of the matter to locate what undergirds and underlays these situations. There is a perceived or real standard set before us and there is our performance in meeting, falling short or exceeding that standard.

What is missing from this analysis is God’s perspective. How does God look upon our striving and worldly toil? What does he make of our GPAs and our annual bonuses? The word of God tells us,

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mt 6:19-21)

The key to understanding this passage for our day is the last part: Where is the focus of our heart? It is too easy to deceive ourselves into thinking that our earthly achievements take the place of our spiritual striving. Time and again God reminds us not to worry about the things of earth.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life … can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? … do not worry … your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Mt 6: 25, 27, 31-33)

Find new definition of success

Notice that God does not excuse us from our earthly work. God simply points out the eternal truth that we must first seek to be in right relationship with him, first seek to build up his kingdom, and then all else falls into place.

Therefore, the problem is not so much whether your kindergarten daughter got a gold star, but was she first seeking to build up the Kingdom of God in her own little way in her kindergarten classroom. And then, did she correctly place the getting of the gold star in its proper second place?

In a similar way, it is not so much if your high school son received a full scholarship to pursue a prestigious career, but first, did your son develop a right relationship with God that allowed him to properly judge where God might be calling him so that he is not simply pursuing a career but answering a call and a vocation?

In this way your son would be properly placing his own earthly treasures second and placing first the building of God’s kingdom by saying yes to God’s call in his heart.

Ultimately, our greatest success is not a thing or a position or an achievement, but a relationship. Developing a real, deep, intimate, personal, relationship with Jesus is our greatest achievement.

This contains our fulfillment and our heartfelt longing because Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life.” (Jn 14:6)
So what can you do to help your kid relax? Talk to them about God’s perspective, tell them about heavenly treasures and show them in your own life that being in right relationship with God and building up his kingdom are priority number one and everything else comes second.

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord,
plans for your welfare and not for harm,
to give you a future with hope.
Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you.
When you search for me, you will find me;
if you seek me with all your heart,
I will let you find me, says the Lord. (Jer 29:11-14a)

(Henry, his wife, Dr. Patricia Cabral, and their five children belong to St. Anthony Parish, Milwaukee. Reyes wears many hats as a business owner, doctoral student and candidate in the deacon formation program for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, but he says his most important hat is building his domestic church as a stay-at-home dad and homeschooling his three oldest children.)