Speech Buddies Parents’ Corner – Are Your Kids Overscheduled?
Are you dizzy from all of the driving, chaperoning, and snack providing you’ve been doing for your child’s activities? Do you ask yourself as you drag yourself into bed each night: Are my kids overscheduled? You’re not alone in your concerns. Diane Ehrensaft, Ph.D., from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, CA, reports that:
Middle-class children in America are so overscheduled that they have almost no ‘nothing time’…Creativity is making something out of nothing and it takes time for that to happen. In our efforts to produce Renaissance children who are competitive in all areas, we squelch creativity.
It’s time to take back a bit of parental sanity and give kids nothing – nothing time, that is. Try these methods for getting the balance back into your family and building strong, capable, creative, and less-stressed kids.
Are My Kids Overscheduled? Questions Every Parent Needs to Ask
Start with a list of your child’s activities – school sports, church choir, clubs, and anything else that requires meetings, practices, or energies during the month. The take each activity and ask yourself the following questions:
- Whose idea was it to start this activity? (hint – if you chose the activity instead of your child, it maybe shouldn’t be a top priority)
- What long-term benefits will my child get from this activity? (think in terms of 1, 5, and 10 year goals)
- How much money is budgeted each month for this activity?
- How much of my time is devoted to this activity each week driving, chaperoning, etc.?
- What is my child’s attitude before attending this activity? (anxious, excited, motivated, reluctant, etc.)
- What is my child’s attitude after attending this activity? (fulfilled, accomplished, energized, frustrated, worried, etc.)
- How would my life, my child’s life, and the life of the family be changed if my child didn’t do this activity anymore?
It is so easy in the frantic pace of families to lose sight of the answers to these questions, but these answers are precisely what can help you decide how to help if you ask yourself: Are my kids overscheduled? There are also some important signs to look for in your child.
Are My Kids Overscheduled? Important Signs for Parents
Be on the lookout for kids who:
- Don’t find enjoyment in their once favorite standbys – ice cream on Fridays, bike riding for enjoyment, reading during a thunderstorm, or any other small activity your child used to savor in the downtime.
- Are anxious and showing signs of stress such as headaches, teeth grinding, stomachaches, nail biting, short tempers, and appetite changes. According to the Surgeon General, 13% of children today suffer from anxiety related health issues, and those numbers appear to be on the rise.
- Are getting lower grades in school – academic changes are some of the first signs of too many activities after school.
- Don’t get to spend time just hanging out with friends watching movies, dancing, playing in the yard, or just giggling.
My Kids are Overscheduled – What Can I Do?
If your child is overscheduled, follow the advice of Dr. Ehrensaft and give your child the freedom to have nothing time. Make sure that the activities in which your child participates have positive and healthy answers to those questions listed above. Encourage your child to be physically active, but not insist that it be on a team sport. Habits like regular exercise that your child enjoys (biking with you, walking the dog, etc.) are lifelong habits you can start building today. Look for activities that provide double duty. Maybe your child wants to take dance lessons, but also likes to sing. Try searching for a musical theatre group where those talents can be combined under one activity roof.
Above all – value playtime. No matter how old your child gets there should be opportunities to sit back and do nothing – except maybe play. In the words of Professor Kay Redfield Jamison, “Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity.”