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Last week in Shanghai, Yang Mingshuo, 8, didn’t return home from school at 8 in the evening as usual.
His Shanghai native parents, Zhang Xiaoai, 38, and Yang Duquan, 43, didn’t get upset initially.
“Sometimes he will arrive a little bit late if he is talking with friends after his after-school activities, or if he is working hard on his homework and forgot the time,” his mother Zhang explained.
“But when he didn’t show up a half an hour later, we really got nervous,” Yang added.
“We called his friends and his teachers, but then we discovered he hadn’t actually gone to school that day!” Zhang began to tear up. “It was the worst day of my life. I was so worried.”
Mingshuo typically starts his day at 6:30 in the morning and walks the short distance to school unsupervised to enjoy a bit of independence.
The whole community came around the parents and helped search for the child by posting on WeChat and in groups. The boy was found that night at a virtual reality boutique in a mall on the other end of the city, playing a basketball video game.
When confronted by his parents as to the reason for his runaway, Mingshou angrily responded, “You didn’t let me sign up for basketball! I play piano, I study science and math and English, I go to karate, but I just wanted one more extracurricular activity.”
Zhang and Yang were both shocked.
“We feel very awkward now about how to proceed. We believe he needs to be home with his family at least some of the time, and we didn’t want to overload him with activities.”
Doctor Ouyang, a child psychologist with Shanghai First Hospital commented on the situation.
“In this sort of situation, Mingshou really felt defeated by having asked so often for being able to play basketball, and so he resorted to a behavior that would get the most attention.”
“My advice to parents would be to give in to children’s wishes for back-to-back activities just like their peers. It may seem like giving in to a completely packed day would be counterintuitive, but if the child has the drive, let him burn his energy in these completely structured activities,” Ouyang said.
Parents struggling with child-withdrawl symptoms can reach out to parent support groups where they can express their feelings about the growing independence of the child. Topics at these groups include learning how to live by example in overworking, small but meaningful 5-minute activities to invest in a child’s life, and what to do with your free time once a child has a packed schedule.
Their hotline is +86 900 1975 WORK.
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Photos: Tauno Tohk (Flickr)