Do you feel as though you're living in the car, constantly dashing from one activity to the next? If so, you’re not alone. Today's kids are involved in more activities than ever, with days that start earlier and end later.
Unfortunately, schedules that are always jammed with highly structured activities can really take a toll. A poll by Health America revealed that 41 percent of kids between the ages of 9 and 13 felt stressed all of the time or most of the time because they have too much to do. And, studies show that kids whose days are filled with structure are less able to use and develop executive function.
Alvin Rosenfeld, author of, The Over-Scheduled Child, says that there's nothing wrong with enrichment activities as long as parents make sure children have enough down time with no activities. In an October 11, 2013 article in The New York Times, Dr. Rosenfeld is says, “Enrichment activities are perfect. They add a lot to kids’ lives. The problem is, we’ve lost the ability to balance them with down time, boring time.” If you’re concerned that your child is over-scheduled, here are a few warning signs to look out for:
#1: Your child doesn’t seem genuinely engaged
It’s normal for kids to have ups and downs, and it’s important to build resilience by working through them. But if your child isn't genuinely engaged in the activity, it's time to reevaluate. Failing to show improvement over time and regularly complaining about doing the activity may be signs that it simply isn't the right one for your child.
#2: Your child has little time for friends
Has you child ever received an invitation to a birthday party that was tossed aside... knowing that there was no way to attend because of games, practices, and classes? Or can you count on one hand the number of times they've been able to get together with a friend after school in the past month? If the only time your child is able to connect with their friends is during school break weeks, then chances are, they may be involved in too many things.
#3: Your child struggles to complete homework
Is your child working on homework in the car on the way to another activity, or struggling to get it done at all? If a special project beyond your routine homework assignments sends a panic through the family, then it’s time to take a look at what you can reduce or eliminate.
#4: Your child seems anxious
Anxiety is a serious problem that may or may not be unrelated to outside activities. If your child struggles with focus, has trouble falling asleep, or has shown problems with eating, it's possible that they may be experiencing anxiety as a result of over-scheduling.
You want your child to be well-rounded, with exposure to music, sports, and more, to have fun and to help prepared for the wider world. But, if you’ve noticed one or more of these warning signs, reducing a few activities and building more free time into the day will be a relief for both you and your child.
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