It’s no secret that American adults are overworked. US workers clock in a whopping 47 hours per week at their jobs, more than any other country in the world.
Grown-ups aren’t the only ones putting in overtime. A recent survey found that 41 percent of respondents between the ages of 9 and 13 felt overworked. In an attempt to give their kids every possible advantage in the future, parents are filling the family schedule with lessons, sports, and other activities. This can be particularly stressful for children of divorced parents that share custody. Overbooked and constantly changing schedules cause stress, which can contribute to emotional and mental issues.
Do you have an overscheduled child? Here are some ideas on how to help them cope with the demands of multiple obligations and still find time to enjoy childhood.
How Much Is Too Much?
There is no rule on how many extracurricular activities your child should be engaged in at any given time. These guidelines will help you decide if you need to pull back.
- Is your child always busy? Does it seem like they never have time to just relax and enjoy themselves?
- Does your child suffer from mood swings, or are they grumpy, anxious, or easily irritated?
- Are your child’s grades starting to suffer? This is one of the first signs of an overscheduled child.
- Is your child getting enough sleep? Do they seem constantly tired or unfocused?
When extracurricular activities start to take time away from schoolwork, friendships, and self-care, it may be time to cut back.
Help your child keep up with their commitments with some simple scheduling techniques.
- Prioritize. Sit down with your child and make a list of their responsibilities. Then rearrange the list, putting the most important activities at the top.
- Plan. Use a calendar to create a visual map of time requirements. Be sure to include things like travel time, breaks, and sleep.
- Balance. If you’re having a hard time fitting everything in, you may need to consider withdrawing your child from lower-priority activities.
- Insist on family time. Whether it’s daily dinners or game nights, give regular family time the highest priority.
Be sure to leave time for your child to explore the world through unstructured play. Free play gives children an opportunity to learn about themselves. It has also been linked to improved overall social, emotional, and cognitive behaviors in the adult years.
When your calendar is complete, hang it in a spot that can be easily seen. A family calendar system saves time and frustration for all members.
Extracurricular activities are important to a child’s development. Dance, music, sports, and other pursuits help them grow into well-rounded adults with multiple skills. These activities can also be fun ways for them to socialize. Like everything else, however, healthy limits are necessary to achieve the best results. Maintain realistic expectations and keep the lines of communication open to keep your overscheduled child from suffering the effects of too much activity.