Is your child doing too much?
As your child gets settled into school, both you and her will quickly become aware of all of the possible activities for her to get involved in, from sports teams or music lessons to after school programs to religious activities. After school activities are a good way for children to be active, practice their social skills, and learn something new. Researchers have also found that they are an effective way to keep children safe outside of school and to improve their academic success. One recently published report has found that there is no such thing as an overscheduled child. However, other research has showed that children are doing too much. It is important to create a balanced schedule that is not too stressful for your child or your family.
Create a manageable schedule for yourself and your child
- Be selective. Pick and choose your child’s activities based on what she enjoys and shows interest in, and also what she excels in. If she is good at something or enjoys it, it will be less stressful for both her and you, and she will be more inclined to stick with it. Some children may be more inclined to play a sport, while others may be more interested in playing an instrument. It is not necessary that your child do everything.
- Know the commitment. Whether activities are run by the school, through the community, or privately, they all require a commitment of time and resources. Find out what is required of both you and your child and make sure you are able to commit. For example, if your child is in the school play, you may be asked to make her costume or help with some aspect of the performance, and your child may have to spend time outside of rehearsal learning lines. Or, if your child is taking music lessons, you may need to rent or buy an instrument in addition to the cost of the lesson.
- Don't burn yourself out. You will find that some children are involved in activities every day of the week from the time the school day ends until dinnertime. Do not worry about enrolling your child in everything her friend is doing; consider the needs of your household. You may have more than one child, work full time, or be a single parent. If your child’s after school activity conflicts with your schedule, see if there is a safe, supervised place your child can stay longer and wait for you, if there is a group carpool, or if someone you trust is able to bring her to and from the activity.
- Set reasonable expectations. Try to be supportive and encouraging of your child's performance. If you are very critical of her progress or expect too much to soon, she may get discouraged or begin to see the activity as a chore rather than a hobby. As your child gets older, she may lose interest in an activity that she has been involved in, or she may start to find it too stressful or challenging. This is normal. Forcing your child to stay with an activity can cause increased stress for both you and her. However, do encourage her to try and overcome an obstacle she might be facing or talk about why she has lost interest or no longer feels like participating. If all else fails, encourage her to try something new.
- Kids need down time. As your child enters higher grades, school will demand more of her attention. Make sure that she has time to do her homework, have some family time, eat dinner, get enough rest, and maybe even have some time to watch television, talk with friends, or relax.
This information was compiled by Sunindia Bhalla, and reviewed by the Program Staff of The Children’s Trust.
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