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Overscheduling Kids – Getting Them Back in Balance

overscheduled-boyKids who Do too Much: Overscheduling Kids

Are you a card-carrying member of the Good Parent club? In order to qualify, according to modern society, we must expose our kids to activities that enhance his “portfolio”. But, what happens when extracurricular activities pile up on and start to smother the child?

This phase is called burnout.

Experiencing Burnout

Yes, wonderful good parent, burnout can and is happening to our children globally. Things that were once adult business, like stress, anxiety and fatigue are now kid business. Elementary children are falling asleep at their desks. Overscheduled kids can’t focus and get fidgety, irritable and lethargic.

Adult sponsored activities were designed to offer life-affirming opportunities. For example, football, karate and swimming are great forms of exercise. If your child is not doing well in school, the opportunity to acquire non-academic skills can enhance his self-esteem. Group activities help the shy child learn social skills.

Overscheduled kids frequently feel guilty because they believe they aren’t doing enough. These are the same kids who are pressured to make top grades, make 1st chair in band, make black belt in karate and so on. Unrealistic expectations lead to stress, anxiety and depression.

Outside activities can gobble up so much time; in consequence there is NO time for family, play, downtime, sleep or friends.

This phase is called getting out of balance.

Getting Back in Balance

Kids need time to be. Some parents border on obsession where their child’s achievements are concerned. They are constantly concerned with enriching the almighty portfolio so he can get accepted in preschool, private school, prep school and college. This is the type parent who enrolls her two-year-old in an academically demanding preschool so that he can get accepted in the best college.

These good parents aren’t necessarily controlling or even “mean”. They are simply reacting to societal conditioning concerning the best interests of the child.

Organized extracurricular activities are valuable for teaching sportsmanship and fostering social skills. However, it’s conscious parenting to observe our kids for signs that they may be overextended.

Here are a few things to watch out for:

  • School performance declining; grades drop.
  • Not sleeping enough, missing meals.
  • Complaints of stomachaches, headaches.
  • Stressed, depressed, anxious.

If your child is overwhelmed with outside responsibilities, perhaps it’s time to readjust your mindset and tell society to go sit in the corner.

This phase is called slowing down.

Whatever Happened to Family Dinnertime?

Reinstating the ritual of family dinner is an auspicious beginning toward getting back in balance. Best possible outcome is dining together every night. If this isn’t possible, do the best you can, but pull parental rank and insist upon eating together on “free” nights.

Everybody will benefit from this new family connectedness. Dinnertime is the most powerful tool in your parenting arsenal for raising happy, healthy kids. Experts agree that kids who eat with the family on a regular basis are not as likely to become obese or demonstrate unhealthy eating practices, such as anorexia. They get better grades, are more resilient and not as easily depressed.

Statistics show a surprising benefit of family dinners. Kids, especially teens, who don’t eat dinner with their families on a regular basis, are:

  • 6 ½ times more likely to use marijuana
  • 5 ½ times more likely to smoke
  • 3 times more likely to drink alcohol

Family dinners are for fun. Leave the squabbles and troubles by the door and talk about them later. Parents might introduce positive topics such as, inviting everyone to tell one good thing that happened that day or one thing they are grateful for that day.

This phase is called – we are family.

What if there are no Vacant Slots in the Schedule?

The answer is: you’ve got to get some. While there are no magic beans to toss in the air that will add up to the right number of activities for your child, your mission is to help your kid achieve a healthy balance of school, friends, family, extracurricular activities and downtime.

It may not be the most pleasant thing you’ve ever done as a parent, but you must set a limit on how much your kids can do. For example, many experts are suggesting that two scheduled activities per week leaves time for imagining, drawing, having adventures, playing games, etc. Some families are instituting a “one sport, one other interest” rule.

At any rate, having a constructive chat with your child and letting him select his favorite extracurricular interests should be a win/win.

This is called – being a conscious parent.

Giving our Kids Wings

Many parents pride themselves on giving opportunities to their child that they did not have. But by encouraging our kids to take on more and more responsibility with this lesson and that sport, in essence, we’re grooming anxious, moody mini-adults.

Kids feel they must be the best and sometimes it gets overwhelming. In taking on too many different extracurricular activities they don’t have an opportunity to concentrate on one of them and master it. Ultimately, they will have a taste of different sports or various activities, but chances are there isn’t any one thing they are really good at doing or playing.

If, as parents, we take an objective look at the situation, we must admit we were instrumental in creating kids who do too much. Kids want to play with their friends, watch their favorite shows on TV and achieve the next level on their new video game. We treasure our free time as adults and we shouldn’t deny the right to our children.

So, hopefully at this point family dinners are developing good familial relationships, your kid dropped a couple of extracurricular activities and everybody in the family is feeling a sense of connectedness.

It’s time to give our kids wings!

Start with encouragement and praise. Kids are seeking parental approval and need positive feedback from us. If at first they seem bewildered about what to do with their newfound freedom, suggest that they invite a few friends for a sleepover.

Encourage creativity. Get a roll of butcher paper, spread it out and paint the world. Take a trip to the library and get books to read aloud to each other. Bring back the lazy Sunday afternoons of picnics in the park. Bring back your happy, healthy kid!

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