As a parent it is hard to know when we’ve found the perfect balance between exposing our kids to the right combination of extra-curricular activities for them to excel, or when we have over scheduled our kids. I mean, if your 7 year old is not playing on a select baseball team, or sits out of fall ball he’ll probably never make the high school team. If your 4 year old is not spending at least 6 hours a week at gymnastics, she’ll never get a scholarship, right? And what about a musical instrument, second language, scouts, 4-H…the opportunities for kids are boundless and as parents it can all be a little overwhelming.
Listening to our kids and paying attention to certain behaviors can be the best indicator of when they are in rhythm with the pace of their schedules or when they are struggling to keep going. Here are 5 signs to look for that indicate when a child or family may need a break.
1. Is there time for school work?
If homework, studying and reading have become something stressful because there are not enough hours in a day to comfortably fit it in, then chances are your child may have too many extra-curricular activities. Quiet, quality time for school work and reading should be a priority, as school is one area that will certainly impact your child’s future. If grades start to suffer then something needs to change.
2. Is sleep being compromised?
Is bedtime getting bypassed due to late night practices, having to finish homework or trying to cram in a shower or nightly reading? If so, chances are there is too much going on. If kids are tired, feeling overwhelmed and stressed or falling asleep in the car, they probably need a break. (See Creating a Healthy Bed Time Routine Blog from July 2017 to determine how much sleep your child should be getting) If your 9 year old has a meltdown at the thought of getting up early on Saturday to go to Kings Island, because it is the one day a week she can sleep in…you have an overscheduled kid.
3. Does your child have down time?
Do your kids have time to explore and play outside, is there time for their imagination to run wild with dolls, Legos and crayons, even the occasional video game or movie, and is there time for friends? Kids need time to recharge and distress, if there is not down time in their schedule, chances are it is too full.
4. Is family time being compromised?
Research has shown numerous benefits to eating dinner together as a family at least 4 times during the week. Family dinners have been linked to a lower risk of obesity, substance abuse, eating disorders, and an increased chance of graduating from high school. If your idea of a family dinner is stopping at Speedway together a few times a week on your way to practice…chances are you are all overscheduled.
In addition to eating together as a family there are many benefits to spending time together relaxing, playing, and even working to accomplish goals together. If family time is limited to carpooling, then it is probably time to re-evaluate the schedule.
5. Does your child enjoy what they are doing?
It can be hard for parents to allow their children to stop, aka quit, an activity. But, if a child is overextended they may begin to feel like they are not able to focus and excel in activities they enjoy. Keeping children in activities they do not enjoy and are not excelling, can do more damage than good. Listening to our children and validating their opinions and desires when it comes to their activities and time can be more beneficial then forcing them to stick with an activity or sport that brings them down. It can also save a family money. Why pay for piano lessons for a child that refuses to practice, and why argue with your child to spend time with an activity they don’t enjoy? Life is too short to not enjoy the time we have together as a family.
Every child and family is different. The most important thing is to pay attention, listen, and not be afraid to make changes for the greater good.