SOMETIMES LESS IS MORE … Words like busy, tired, burnout, stress, overloaded and anxious are definite buzz words at the moment. These are words I am hearing about children more and more these days. When your friends and family ask how you are, is your answer “busy”? If so, then you need to read this.
There is a definite trend these days to overload, not only our schedules, but also our children’s schedules. An overloaded schedule causes anxiety and tension to parents and children alike. While it is important to expose our children to different opportunities, we must be careful when it comes to taking on too much. Finding a balance between school, activities, and play can mean the difference between a well-adjusted child and a stressed-out one.
School tends to focus on the academics, while extra-curricular activities allow children the opportunity to experience social interaction and teaches them skills, like perseverance and commitment. Your children are too busy when there is no time for family and friends, unstructured play and sleep. Sooner or later, children who are too busy will start showing signs of being overschedules. While every child is different, parents can look out for this list of symptoms in their child:
- Being tired a lot of the time
- Often being grumpy, or crying a lot
- Recurring physical problems, like headaches or sore tummies
- Struggling to sleep (Primary school children need 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night. Teens should average 8 to 9 hours each night.)
- Struggling to fit in their homework, or a drop in school results
- Doesn’t have any free time to do something they choose to do
Long-term stress—like that from being overscheduled—can negatively impact a child’s health. Children may experience depressive symptoms, anxiety and a drop in academic results if they are too busy. As hard as it may be, parents need to take a stand when it comes to family schedules.
“It’s time to take control of the family schedule before it takes control of you!” (Momology)
Have you ever considered how you, as the parents are feeling? Are you tired all the time? Are you feeling agitated? Do you lose your temper easily? Do you feel like you only ever see your children when you’re driving them somewhere? If so, it’s time to relook at your family schedule.
We have researched some suggestions to help you minimise busyness, which we have included below.
** Enforce family time – with all the busyness, family time often falls away. Whether it’s eating a meal together, or going for a walk, you must make family time a priority. Everyday! Eating a meal together provides parents with a wonderful opportunity to teach children manners and to teach them how to have a conversation. It also provides an irreplaceable time to have real, honest conversations with our children. Make time to play with your children. You will be amazed at how much you learn about your child when you spend time with them. Research shows that children who feel loved and secure at home, perform better at school and on the sports field.
** Put academics first – academics must always take priority over extra-curricular activities! If your child does not have enough time or energy to complete the schoolwork or to prepare for tests and exams, then it is time to cut back!
** Choose activities wisely – only sign your child up for an activity that they really want to do. Think about your child’s age, interests, abilities and personality when making these choices. If they appear to want to do everything, you can encourage them to take on a new activity when another one ends.
** Don’t over commit – parents often worry that their child will miss out if they don’t take part in as much as possible. Rather teach your children to do things properly. Two activities at a time are usually manageable. Take into consideration the number of children you have, where the activities are, driving distance and time in the car, when making these choices. If you as the parents are feeling stressed about your children’s activities, take that as an indication that they are too busy.
** Find the balance – no matter how talented your children are at any particular activity, always make sure that they have enough time to rest, do their schoolwork, and enjoy being a child. Experts are telling us to allow children to have fun! They don’t need to be an Olympic Medallist in their teens.
If your children are older, you can include them in the decision of what to do now and what activities to cut out of their schedule. If your children are younger, you can do this for them. Just don’t make your child make these decisions on their own. They need your help and guidance.
Children should always have at least some days in a week when they have nothing scheduled. They need free time every day! This is time when they are able to choose what they want to do. Free time doesn’t have to be spent watching TV or playing online games. Free time can be productive. Encourage your children to spend this time outside as often as possible. Being outside has wonderful health benefits, for parents and children alike.
Always remember … it’s okay to say “NO!”