It’s back to school season, and for kids that means long school days, after school activities and homework. Throw in ballet classes, soccer practice, church activities, family responsibilities and music lessons and the enriching life many parents are trying to give their children can actually turn detrimental to their well being and mental health.
Overscheduling kids has become an epidemic of sorts, and has been gaining more attention from educators, doctors, and child psychologists over the past few decades. Overscheduling children leads to the same stress-related health and psychological problems that overworked adults experience, and it’s starting younger and younger. Studies have found that the majority of kids who are overscheduled tend to have parents from an educated, higher income bracket—and interesting enough, they tend to be girls.
The key is balance. Obviously we want our children to be productive, and many parents are trying to avoid having “lazy” children who are glued to the phone or the TV…but there are two extremes and middle ground is where we want to be. Kids need downtime too, and they need to be bored sometimes. This allows them to use their imaginations and find things to do on their own. When their whole life is scheduled out, it leaves little room for reflection and relaxation, and both are critical when they are busy growing a body!
Here are some signs your child may be overscheduled.
You never see them bored
If you think back on the last week, and the mental picture of your child is homework, appointments, meetings, lessons and rushing here and there, it might be time to reasess their schedule. Every child needs downtime. They need time to relax and unwind, process their thoughts and reflect on their day. It’s crucial for their well being and development.
Your child turns into a grumpy old man
Is your child complaining of aches and pains and headaches regularly? Are they always tired? Are they irritable with family members, and tend to be more grouchy than happy? These are typical physical symptoms that can arise when a child’s life is out of whack, or they are overworked. Revisit their schedule, make sure they are getting to bed at a decent hour, and make sure they have quiet time each night before bed.
Your child loses interest in their favorite things
If your child starts to become apathetic to things they once loved, it’s time to take notice. When things that were fun to them aren’t fun anymore, and they don’t really care about their favorite foods, people, music, passtimes, etc…and if their schedule is very busy, it’s usually because they are too tired to care. These can also be symptoms of depression, however before making assumptions, it’s important to question if it’s just an overscheduled calendar.
Your child’s grades are dropping
School should be a child’s number one priority. They are a student before anything else. If a child’s grades are dropping it can a be a symptom of overscheduling. If your child is having to wake up early to finish homework from the night before because their evening was too full of activities, something needs to get cut. Too many extracurricular activities can zap the energy a child needs to be a good student.
You live in your car more than your house
If you’re having more conversations in the car than within the walls of your own home, this can definitely be a sign you’re overscheduled. If you are shuttling your kids back and forth to various activities all the time, this can mean your schedules are dominating family time.
Your child is losing friends
Friends come and go, and that’s normal, but if your once very social child is becoming isolated because they are missing out on birthday parties or outings with close friends, this is a warning sign. Children need friends and time to have unstructured play and downtime. It’s crucial for their social development, and if their best friend is not around anymore because your child doesn’t have time for them, it’s time to re-evaluate their schedule.
You no longer eat regular meals together
If you are so busy that you’re regularly grabbing dinner on the go, not eating together, or your child is continually skipping out on dinner to finish homework or get to practice, you are an overscheduled family. There are studies showing the benefits of having family dinner on a regular basis, and it’s something more families should be doing. Read our article “5 Reasons to Eat Family Dinner Together”.
You’re too tired to do it all
Are you constanly complaining to friends and family how tired you are because of all the things you have to do? Do you wear your “busyness” as a badge? Do you dread all the activities and playing the role of never ending Taxi driver? If you yourself are one tired mama because of an overscheduled schedule, imagine how your kids feel. If you are drained, chances are your children are too. It may be time reasses your priorities and question if it’s all worth it.
Remember, it’s all about balance! Maybe choose one extracurrcular activity for your child each year instead of juggling three. Make sure you are having regular family meals together, that your child is getting enough sleep and has enough time to productively manage their homework load. With a little mindful scheduling you can find the healthy amount of activities for your family and your child.