When You Can’t Do It All: How to Avoid Overscheduling Your Kids
Is your child racing from soccer to gymnastics to piano lessons? Learn how to stop the madness and choose the right extracurricular activities for your child.
Why We Overschedule
Dr. Murphy encourages parents to examine their own motivations for scheduling, stating that parents may fall into the trap of overscheduling to accommodate a work schedule, submit to pressure to compete with others, or give their kids “an edge.” Some parents even support activities that develop skills that they themselves lack. “Ask yourself if your child seems content,” suggests Dr. Murphy. “Is he relaxed? Does he enjoy the activities he participates in? Does he have time to engage in independent play or entertainment on a daily basis? Do you find yourself hurrying him through his homework to get to multiple lessons, activities, or practices?” If you are concerned about any of your responses to these questions, it may be time to reevaluate your schedule.
Andrea Plotkin, a mother of three, carefully evaluates the extracurricular activities her children are involved in. “There are a lot of parents who pressure their children to participate in activities so that they can be the best or achieve mastery. We try to encourage our kids to participate in activities so that they can be well-rounded and acquire new skills they can find joy in and be proud of. The biggest evil is not how many activities your children are involved in, but the importance you place in their mastery of the activities.”
Plotkin makes a conscious effort to allow for some down time, encouraging her children to chill out after a busy day at school. She says that while some activities such as religious instruction are non-negotiable, she is careful to listen to her children and gauge whether or not they are feeling balanced and successful. If her children begin to feel overwhelmed with their commitments, she talks with them to help sort out which activities to let go.
With so many wonderful extracurricular activities available to children these days, it can be daunting for parents to choose the right activities without going overboard. The following guidelines can help parents searching for a well-balanced and healthy extracurricular life.
How to Cut Back
Prioritize: Decide which extracurricular activities you would like your child to experience. There may be some activities you view as necessary, such as religious instruction or tutoring. Then think of your child’s strengths and list activities that might play to those strengths. Enriching strengths can do wonders in building a child’s self-esteem.
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