By Christine Weinzapfel-Hayden, LCSW – February 20, 2018 –
Most families have had these moments… sitting at the dining room table, looking at the calendar and trying to figure out how you’re going to map everyone’s schedule for the week.
Between practices, tutoring, homework and more, it’s tough to figure out when and where we’re going to get our children fed because no one is ever home at the same time.
For parents, the reality of trying to figure out the family’s schedule is daunting and stressful. If we are harried trying to fit all of these activities into a day, how do our children react?
American children are overextended. Gone are the days of coming home and playing with friends outside for hours before having dinner with the family, finishing homework and settling into bed.
Today’s children spend 8 hours at school followed by hours of practice or club activities several nights a week. When they finally get home, they tackle more homework than ever due to higher academic expectations.
All of this stress can be harmful to a brain that has not fully developed. So what does this mean for our children?
Children, like adults, all handle stress differently. There is no magic number of extracurricular activities that will provide a child with the most enriched life.
The best thing a parent can do is be observant and empathetic to the child’s emotional needs. Does your child seem stressed? Are they asking if they can skip practices? Do you have to drag them out the door? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, chances are your child is overextended.
So, what can you do to help kids manage their time and feel less overwhelmed? Allow them to pick the activities that mean the most to them. As parents, we often feel the need to expose our children to as many opportunities as possible. What is really important, though, is that our children enjoy the things they’re doing. When a child is playing and having fun they are also learning.
It is also important that your family has time together. When every family member is involved in different activities it makes it difficult to spend quality time together. We need to be just as concerned about our children having time at home with their family as we are with the activities they are involved in.
The moral of the story is…You’re not setting your child up for failure if you don’t involve them in an excessive amount of extra-curricular activities. Allow your child to express what is most important to them to narrow down their involvement. Having fun and spending time with family is what is most important.