* Over-Scheduled Children Experience Stress

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.

 

* Striking a Balance – Time Management for a New School Year

By Lisa Cossey, LCSW, Courier & Press, August 29, 2017 –

With most children already back at school for a new year, many families will find themselves in a struggle for the ages: wants versus needs.

Many families have difficulty finding a balance between work and play.  But what if the struggle is between your child’s academics and their extracurricular activities?

It would be hard to find a parent who would say academics aren’t important, but at times it seems academics are in direct competition with having fun.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great for kids to have fun.  They need active and sensory experiences to help them grow and develop.  Extracurricular activities can also be a great way to develop skills.

But if your child’s academics are suffering or your child is upset, tearful, moody or more anxious than normal, it’s time to take a hard look at your family’s schedule.  And if you’re spending more time in the car than you do in your home together as a family, it’s definitely time to step back and reassess your priorities.

 What is your child doing? Do they have one activity, or two, three or four?  How many hours a day are they away from home?  How many nights a week is your family away from home?  Is your child getting enough sleep at night?

A healthy balance is needed between school and extracurricular activities.  At this point in the year, your family will soon have a good idea of how much homework your student is going to receive daily.  Evaluate what your child and family can handle.

For reference, according to Dorothy Sluss, President of the U.S. Chapter of International Play Association, for every week of intensive activity, three weeks of less structured time and activity are needed to maintain a healthy balance for children.

If your child’s grades are not what they used to be, or if they are having more incomplete or missing work, it may be necessary to back off the wants and focus on the needs.  It is OK to drop an activity due to falling grades or place a limit on how many activities your child is able to join to keep a healthy balance.  Putting academics ahead of sports, scouts  and dance is OK too.

We have a culture that encourages and supports many sports and other activities.  Encouragement is great.  The issue is when children feel pressured to commit and join.  It is OK to say no.  It is OK to put your family’s needs first.  It is OK to limit the number of activities your family is involved in.

If you have concerns for your child or need further ideas on how to strike the right balance for your family, please feel free to reach out to your child’s teacher or to the Youth First School Social Worker at their school. We are here to help.