Most kids love to engage in extracurricular activities, such as sports, music lessons, dance, scouts, to name a few. But, could your child be involved too much and monopolizing his or her time? How much time is left for schoolwork? How much time is left for family? Where is the line between taking advantage of these opportunities and being overscheduled? The signs of becoming overscheduled may be subtle. Kids may become agitated, feel anxious or overwhelmed. They may have trouble concentrating or staying awake in school.
Some parents contribute to this problem. In an effort to keep their children occupied with productive activities or offer their kids opportunities that weren’t available when they were youngsters, some parents go overboard. The result can be too much pressure and not enough time alone. Young people need some “down time" in order to discover they can be comfortable with solitude and with themselves. When they know how to live without being constantly entertained or rushing from one activity to the next, they develop self-confidence and learn how to tolerate unfilled time. TIME is so important to life; families need it to interact, to converse and communicate, to work and play together. If this time is not available because your child is too busy, then perhaps your child’s daily activity list needs some revision. If your child is doing well in school and you have decided to limit the extra-curricular activities, it is essential to explain that your actions are not in any way a form of punishment. Be open with your child and explain your concerns that you think more time is needed for family stimulation and “down-time" for stress reduction. This is a form of “love." Now, on the other hand, if your child is doing poorly in school, limiting activities is a “must."
Here are some suggestions to keep your family from becoming overscheduled:
- Limit each child to one or two extracurricular activities. Activities should be balanced with breaks and free time. Kids shouldn’t move from school to sports to homework without a pause.
- If your child wants more activities, he/she may have to give up on one they are already involved with. It is not adding more activities; it’s giving up one for another.
- Do not say “yes" to new activities too quickly. Consider the costs—financial, emotional, and loss of family time.
- Set family nights on your calendar. Order a pizza and play board games. It’s a good habit to eat dinner together as a family. No one can schedule anything on “family night."
- Schedule quiet time for your family and let the kids have time for them to explore new magazines, listen to music, or engage in a fun hobby.
- Take time together to enjoy nature. What are we missing by not spending time in a park, beach, hiking or a leisurely bike ride?
As parents we are role models on how to handle stress and how to balance our time. Can you juggle your appointment book? Are you penciling in family time? We need to teach our youngsters these skills. Make the time to slow down and enjoy the gift of family unity—it’s the greatest gift of all!
Personal experience as a parent of three
Child Mind Institute: “Finding the Balance With After-School Activities"
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