How to Rein In Stress by Controlling Kids' Extra-Curricular Activities We want what's best for our children, but sometimes it becomes too much. Here are tips to calm things down. BY JODY JOHNSTON PAWEL, LSW, CFLE
Finding a balance of extra-curricular activities is the key to controlling stress.
“ The reality is that when anyone adds too many kettles to the fire, they are bound to get burned out or not perform as well at each activity as they could if they were more focused.”
When I was a coach for an extra-curricular activity trying to plan practices, I was surprised how many children had commitments almost every day of the week! I could understand parents not wanting children who were couch potatoes with withered brain cells, but I saw the stress it caused both the parents and children.
Most parents would like their child to be involved in enriching activities, but it’s easy for schedules to quickly spin out of control. When it does, parents live in their cars and forget what their spouses looks like, while children try to manage their time like a corporate project manager.
Parents can fall into the over-scheduling trap for variety of reasons:
* Parents want their children to use their time wisely, but accidentally take on too much. * Children want to do everything. Parents don’t want to disappoint them or hear endless nagging, so they let them. * Parents want to keep children busy so they won’t get into trouble, instead of teaching children how to be well-behaved away from home. * Some parents want their children to experience every opportunity—all at once—which is overwhelming. * Parents may expect their children to be super-achievers, whatever the cost.
To determine whether your family’s schedule needs scaled back, ask yourself, "Does my child want to do all these activities or do I want them to?" When parents register children for activities without asking children first, it’s a red flag that parents need to back off. If children want to do everything, think "moderation" and remember that responsible parents do not give children everything they want.
The reality is that when anyone adds too many kettles to the fire, they are bound to get burned out or not perform as well at each activity as they could if they were more focused.
Short-term, over-scheduling often affects children’s schoolwork, quality family time and increases the stress levels of the children and parents involved. The long term result of over-scheduling is a generation of stressed-out workaholics who don’t know how to set priorities, say "no," focus on one task, and have balance in their lives. What? We are part of a generation of stressed-out workaholics? Then it’s time to break the cycle.
Children need "down time" as much as adults do. They need time to play and just be a kid—even teens. Will they get bored? Probably, but learning how to use one’s imagination to handle boredom creatively and responsibly is a valuable life skill.
To regain control of your family life and reduce scheduling stress, establish a policy of two activities per season. Have children rotate seasonal activities or reach one goal, then strive for another. Over-scheduled families rarely spend time together when they aren’t eating, driving or discussing schedules; but weekly family time is one activity worth scheduling.
Setting limits on extra-curricular activities teaches children how to budget their time and responsibilities and to handle disappointment. Children learn how to set priorities and concentrate on doing their best at a few chosen activities. Rarely are activities "once in a lifetime" opportunities. Usually, there is a time and season for every activity. We, and our children, just need to pace ourselves instead of racing to do everything all at once.
Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE is a second-generation parent educator and president of Parent's Toolshop Consulting. She is the author of 100+ resources for parents and family service professionals, including her award-winning book, The Parent's Toolshop, at www.ParentsToolshop.com. Since 1980, Jody has trained parents and professionals through her dynamic presentations and served as internationally recognized parenting expert to the media worldwide. Get practical parenting resources, including more information about this topic at: http://www.parentstoolshop.com/tele/telearchive.htm or visit www.parentingbookmark.com for more practical tips!