It is the seasonal parenting dilemma: In the summer, your child is easily bored, during the school year, your kid is too busy. How can a parent know how many activities is too many?
Simply, one great was to identify if your kid is too busy is his grades. Children, and parents at times, easily forget that job one for a child is to go to school. Many parents become wrapped up in the idea that busy is better, that soon, other more important aspects of a child’s development wane.
I recently began a Netflix subscription and nearly fell into a binge-watch of Dance Mom’s. Not due to the content, but the continual misaligned priority of dance first, everything — and everyone else, second. And sometimes, not at all. It was sad to watch this show from their paradigm and hold a belief that school, friends and family were second to the sport. How much is too much? Are we as parents worried about our children missing out or falling behind? Is the subliminal pressure to excel outweighing the opportunities in the overshadowed activities?
What parents don’t easily recognize are the missed opportunities for engagement, influence and growth when activities are limited to once a week. For example, how many nights per week does the whole family sit to eat dinner together? This small routine is what helps foster open communication among family, share ideas, and bond. This is not replaced by sitting in the stands watching a practice or competition.
What about the toll on children with rushing nighttime routines? Or, coming home late and expecting them to begin to wind down after being wound up at 7pm or 8pm?
Also, the grind of driving kids from one event to another can be draining on everyone; do other siblings have to come in tow or are they left with the other parent at home? If a kid is too busy, it can create stress for all members of the household. So, what are the signs that a kid is too busy?
- A child may feel tired, anxious, or depressed
- A child may complain of headaches and stomachaches, which may be due to stress, missed meals, or lack of sleep
- Kids may fall behind on their schoolwork, causing their grades to drop
- Kids may begin to complain or lose interest in the sport, lesson or activity -it no longer becomes fun
- A child’s grades may drop or, the emphasis is placed on the sport or club rather than the schoolwork or grades
- Kids interest in hanging out with friends wanes or is almost non-existent
- A kid’s behavior becomes angry, short-tempered or rebellious
Understand that kids can not express frustration or burnout as we do as adults. Some things that aren’t a big deal to adults can cause significant stress for kids. Let your kids know that you understand they are stressed and don’t dismiss their feelings as inappropriate. We’ve found that one extra-curricular sport or club was plenty in elementary school and added another in junior high. However, the time away from home time is limited as the events do not meet more than once per week, more than twice per month. This keeps it manageable for the child and the parent.
Do you have a busy kid story you’d like to share? Drop us a line, we’d love to hear from you and possibly feature your story on our blog.
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