‘s a scary but true: I’ve found that kids as young as 9 or 10 can experience the physical and emotional effects of burnout due to overscheduling. In a 2007 report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, researchers found that some “highly scheduled children” show signs of increased stress and anxiety.
Early-morning soccer sessions, summer camps, music lessons — children are forgetting what it feels like just to be kids. Instead, they’re tired, agitated, stressed and spending their rare downtime vegging out in front of the TV.
So, parents, before booking the kids for every activity under the sun this summer. First, take a few minutes to ask yourselves four simple questions:
1. “Am I setting a good example of a balanced life?”
Examining your own behavior is essential. Are you overbooked and running from one activity to the next? This may send the message to your children that a lot of extracurricular activities are more important than engaging in personal interests and a healthy quality of life. Remember, how you behave has a much greater impact on your children’s lives than whether they start playing tennis at the age of four.
2. “Am I doing too much for my children?”
If you’re controlling your children’s schedules completely, you may be setting them up for failure in the future. They’re not learning the skills necessary to manage their busy lives. In my parenting how-to guide, Duct Tape Parenting, I outline strategies to help parents teach their kids to prioritize and create a schedule they can sustain. If your child is spending time doing something that’s not helping them grow, they’re probably not learning how to make the best use of their time, energy and resources.
3. “What are my child’s interests?”
Choose experiences and opportunities that allow your child to expand on an existing skill or interest. This approach, versus signing them up for a variety of activities just to see what they may be interested in, has greater potential to build lasting emotional and physical well-being.
4. “What is the real motive for signing up my child for this activity?”
Again, take a look at yourself: Are you signing up because you’re too busy and need to keep the kids occupied? Are you competing with other parents? Are you afraid they’ll miss out on developing interests and skills? Whatever your motive, just remember: It’s OK to step back and embrace playing in the backyard instead of piano lessons and let your kids be kids.
I encourage parents to let their kids take an active role in their own lives as well as the family’s life. This way they can develop the crucial skills needed to manage their own schedules. They also learn how to view their activities with a more discerning eye and with a deeper understanding of what it takes to commit.
By involving a child in the decision-making process, both the child and the parent can live a more balanced and fulfilling life. No matter how busy everyone gets, it remains clear that every family member has a right to participate in activities that bring them joy and truly enrich their lives.
Readers — Do you have children? If so, how many? What are you doing to keep them busy this summer? Do you or your kids feel overscheduled with too many activities? Was this blog post helpful to you and your family? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Vicki Hoefle is a professional parent educator with more than 20 years’ experience teaching parents, educators and caregivers how to raise respectful, responsible and resilient children. Hoefle combines her expertise in Adlerian psychology and as an International Coaching Federation certified coach to bring parents Duct Tape Parenting, a sustainable and proactive parenting strategy that provides time-tested tools for a happy, peaceful family life. Her informative and engaging presentation style keeps her in demand as a speaker, facilitator and educator. Hoefle is a mother of six and lives in Middlebury, Vermont. For more information, visit vickihoefle.com.