Where on the one hand we see that many children spend countless hours watching TV or playing video games, there is a different sort of problem regarding how children spend their time that is less apparent. This problem is that too many kids are becoming too busy. Whether a parent’s intention is to schedule activities for their children so that they stay out of trouble or whether the intent of so many activities is for exposure or growth, over scheduling children is not good for them.
There are real and serious consequences that befall a child that is too busy. Some of the more common signs of a child being overscheduled include such things as feeling anxious, tired, or even depressed. Children who are too busy often complain of even more apparent physical ailments such as headaches, stomach aches, hunger due to missed meals or signs of lack of sleep. One of the first outward manifestations that a child is too busy that may not be obviously apparent when you look at or observe the child is a failure to keep up with school work. Children who are too busy with demanding schedules often do not have time to devote to their studies thus causing their grades to drop.
As parents, of course we do not want our children to suffer because they have too much on their plates. And certainly we do not want to be the ones who are encouraging or even reprimanding our children when they cannot or will not keep up with such demanding schedules. Determining if your child is too busy can be very difficult, especially if there are not any activities that the child wants to give up. Therefore starting preventative measures now can start to help present problems as well as deter any future over scheduling problems from occurring.
Begin your process of ensuring that your child does not become too busy by first agreeing on some ground rules. Such ground rules should include what times of the day are reserved for the family (i.e. it would be inappropriate to sign up for an activity that would make it impossible for your child to be present for the nightly family meal). Other ground rules may include putting a limit on the number of sports teams your child can play on at a given time or even specifying how many hours each week can be spent on activities and making sure to only sign up for activities that fall within this time allotment. You should also establish priorities with your children. School should be a priority. Time with family is also a priority that needs to be considered.
Set into action now rules that clearly state the consequences that would indicate a need for a change in the schedule. For example, membership in a certain club may be contingent upon making sure that grades remain above a certain level. Failure to maintain that grade requirement should lead to action in either minimizing time spent on an activity or eliminating that activity all together. Also, make sure that the adult in charge of the activities that your child is engaged in understands that there may be times when your child will have to miss a practice or game. Your child needs to learn that although it is important to keep one’s commitments, sometimes it becomes necessary to choose between two noble options.
As a parent trying to keep up with the schedules of multiple children can also be overwhelming. Try using a calendar or day-planner to stay organized. Set up a carpool for your kids so that it is not your sole responsibility to get your kids where they need to be and back every time. Keep in mind that if you as a parent cannot keep up with the schedules of your kids, they may be too busy as well. Do not try to be in two places at once and do not underestimate the importance of down-time for both you and your children.