Is your child overloaded?
Make sure your kids schedule is not over booked to ensure that they still have a childhood.
Are you one of so many well-meaning parents who never miss out on an opportunity to sign your kids up for something?

Are you turning their childhood into a rat-race that looks more like an adult schedule? Okay, so they have ballet, advanced math class, violin, as well as hockey practise – definitely don’t want them to miss out on becoming a well-rounded individual – definitely doing the right thing – or are you? Somehow it became commonplace to assume kids should try everything, and be everything.

How is your child coping with her hectic schedule? Has it come to the point where you are becoming aware of signs of stress? Are you noticing a decline in your child’s grades, do they seem tired, or are some behavioural changes popping up? Irritable, sluggish and headache prone kids on the one hand, and exhausted, stressed, and resentful parents on the other.

Yes, the red flags should be going up round about now! School clubs, organized sports, and music lessons, are all important activities that promote social and physical well-being. However, it often happens that parental expectations are too high and inappropriate, overloading the child and causing stress. These parents are sending the message that they expect the child to succeed in all areas of their life. Kids very often misunderstand parents’ well-meaning intentions and participate in some activities only because they think parents expect them to. A lot of pressure, right?

If you as a parent are feeling stressed about the number of activities your child is involved in, it’s a good indication that it’s time to cut back. Kids need time to daydream, to chill out. So, be part of the solution, not the problem. Children are not developmentally able to handle adult-level stress. Well-meaning parents can sometimes be the cause of kids being over committed. It is part of good parenting to help keep kids from becoming stressed and overloaded.

So, what’s a parent to do?
  • Know your child. One child that is highly scheduled might do very well and another might need to dial it back. Look out for signs of stress.
  • Examine your child’s schedule and schedule family and free time. Shoot for balance not perfection.
  • Just say no. Don’t feel guilty about setting limits. But, don’t turn away every opportunity, or even most.
  • Also say yes. Allow them to choose activities that they’re interested in. Talk to your child about how it will impact her life.
  • Put academics first. If activities are sapping your child’s time and energy away from homework, something needs to be cut.

Extracurricular activities should never become the priority.

Focus on the gains, not the losses, should an activity be cut. E.g. with fewer obligations they might be able to get a pet. Sometimes kids have an easier time of letting go of some activities if they know it will create an opportunity for something new they’ve always wanted (such as a dog).

It may be time for parents themselves to slow down! Think about your priorities, do you take proper care of yourself and your needs? What kind of a role model are you? Mmm … Something to think about!

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