Is your child overscheduled? We get it–your child wants to be involved with as much as they can, and it’s good for them to be active in their community. However, there is a very thin line where it becomes too much. Unfortunately, there’s no one right answer; no clean statistic that says, “3 activities a week is just right, 5 is far too much”. So, we’re here to help you figure out if your child is overbooked, and steps you can take to lighten the load.
Is Your Child Too Busy?
Ask yourself some tough questions. First, when you go to sign your child up for an activity of club, ask yourself why they’re going to be involved. If they begged and begged to be a part of this activity, that’s great! However, if you’re looking for something to take up an afternoon while you’re working or just to keep them busy, you may need to reflect further. Next, ask yourself if this activity will cut into homework time, family time, mealtimes, or even your child’s sleep schedule. Free time is important to a child’s schedule, and if an activity is cutting into other areas, that means free time is minimal (not to mention the importance of homework and family time).
Closely observe your child’s mood. Like adults, overscheduled children often show physical symptoms, including stomach and headaches, anxiety, depression, fatigue, a drop in grades, and being unable to sleep. One of the biggest telltale signs to burnout is if your child is no longer interested in, or complains about, activities they used to love.
Initiate conversation with your child. Kids, especially younger ones, don’t know how to ask for a day off. Most of the time, they’ll just go with whatever their schedule tells them to. Asking your child about how they feel, how they enjoy their activities, and if they’d rather cut back or being doing something else, is the most direct way to know if your child is overscheduled.
How Bad is Overscheduling Kids Anyway?
In a word, bad. As previously mentioned, burnout can affect your child’s overall happiness, physical health, and academic performance. That’s not all, though. Overscheduled kids can easily grow into bored teenagers. This happens for two reasons:
- They no longer enjoy the things they used to love
- They grew up thinking they had to constantly be entertained or occupied, and a lighter schedule that comes with teen autonomy could leave them dissatisfied
That’s still not all. Overscheduling your child could negatively impact their relationship with you. First, a busy schedule means less family time. That’s not good. Second, and possibly more importantly, your child’s busy schedule may leave them feeling a high amount of pressure. As well-meaning as you may be in making sure they’re active, there is a very real possibility that they don’t want to disappoint you and engage with activities they don’t like for you.
Making an Appropriate Schedule
This is the easy part! Having those conversations about what they enjoy, what they want to do, and where they want downtime is the best way to make sure your child is feeling happy and healthy. Younger children may not have the vocabulary to express these feelings yet, so giving them options will help them navigate the conversation with you. Make changes to their schedule accordingly.
In addition, make sure there are a few days in the week with nothing going on. Clear your child’s schedule so they can use their downtime how they see fit. In many cases, your child may still engage with one of their after-school activities! For example, if your child is taking dance lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays, they may practice their routine or try out some new moves during their free time. The point is to make it enjoyable, not forced.
Emphasize to your child that these activities are supposed to be fun. Let them know they don’t have to do an activity they have no interest in. Remind them that you’re proud of them for trying something new!