Between school, travel sports, clubs, dance, religious classes, volunteer work, homework and maybe a job after school, a great many kids today are busier than their parents. And even though it can be a hassle driving them to and from all their activities, some parents take pride in their kids’ chock-full schedules and see them as a symbol of good parenting.
But do children actually benefit from such a demanding pace? Maybe not. An alarming number of children, not just in high school but even as young as pre-school, are stressed out, anxious and exhausted. Experts say what kids really need is more time with their families and friends, pets, or just hanging out doing nothing by themselves.
Perhaps it’s time to slow down
Kids whose time is overly organized don’t have time to be kids and their family doesn’t have time to be a family, states a recent article from healthessentials, a division of the Cleveland Clinic. These over-scheduled children typically don’t eat well, sleep well or form solid friendships, which can set them up for future depression and anxiety, as well as hamper their ability to solve problems and make good decisions, the article warns.
Unfortunately, this is something we see at Westchester Health Pediatrics more often than we’d like, which is why we offer this blog as a way to help parents recognize when their kids are doing too much, and what to do about it.
Is your children’s calendar running your family’s life?
The healthessentials article asks a question that we at WHP find very revealing: When was the last time you simply had fun with your kids? If it’s been weeks or even months, maybe delete some things from the calendar.
Here are 6 things you can do to slow down (or get off) the activities merry-go-round
We really like these helpful tips and guidelines from healthessentials, and share them here:
Don’t schedule an activity for your kids every day
Ask them them choose their top 3 favorites and really try to stick to these. If they want to add an activity, tell them they have to drop one.
Weigh the pros and cons of each commitment
When helping your children choose activities, weigh the benefits for both them and your family vs. the time everyone will have to invest in taking them to and from these activities. For example, driving long distances so one child can participate in an elite sport or take music lessons from a famed instructor will greatly impact your other kids.
Make time for down time
Don’t underestimate the value of unorganized down time, such as playing with the dog, building something with Lego or just relaxing. Kids (like adults) need time to switch off their brains and just be. However, at WHP we feel strongly that down time should not be screen time. We suggest making a family rule that downtime means no electronics.
Help your kids develop creativity and imagination
A lot of kids these days simply don’t play enough. But rather than buying them ever more elaborate games or toys, try sending them into the backyard for an hour to entertain themselves. If you don’t have a yard, take them to a park. While you supervise from a distance, let them play for an hour on their own. In the same way, if they have friends over for a play date, don’t organize what they do. Let them figure it out for themselves.
Allow a child who wants to be on his/her own to do so
Some kids aren’t interested in joining organized activities and prefer drawing, playing, building or reading on their own. Don’t force a child into group activities or team sports. Try instead to support their individual preferences.
Schedule quality family time
Make it a priority to schedule 20 minutes a day, 2-3 times a week, to spend time together as a family. It could be having dinner around the table rather than in front of the TV, playing a card game or board game, or taking a walk together. Showing your kids that they are important enough for you to carve out time to be with them has been shown to not only build kids’ confidence and self-esteem but decrease risk-taking behaviors, depression and even weight problems.
Here are some helpful articles we recommend
- 10 Signs Your Kids Are Overscheduled
- Overscheduled Children: How Big a Problem?
- Overscheduled Child? – Why You Need to Simplify Your Family Schedule
At any age, count on us for all kinds of information to help you raise happy, healthy kids
You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. Whether you’re raising teenagers, adolescents, toddlers or newborns, we’ve got years of experience helping parents take care of their children and we’re ready to help you with yours. Please come in and see us.
Concerned that your child is overscheduled? Come see us.
If you’re worried that your child is doing too much, or if you’re seeing signs of depression or anxiety, please come in and see one of our Westchester Health Pediatrics pediatricians. We’ll sit down with you and your child and together, come up with workable solutions for lessening the stress and lightening the schedule. Our #1 goal is to do whatever we can to help strengthen your family so that everyone can be as healthy as possible, both physically and emotionally. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.