Updates from the Principal
As we begin the New Year, it is tempting for us to commit to doing more in our daily lives. However, please move forward with caution when planning extracurricular activities for your child. Keep in mind, more often than not, less is more! If your household sounds like the two listed below, it is time to reflect on your child’s weekly schedule and daily commitments.
It is 7:15pm and Michael, age 10, is sitting at the dinner table. He is not eating dinner, though; he is still doing his homework. Michael wakes up at 7 am, eats breakfast, gets ready for school, finishes his homework from the day before, and gets on his school bus. The school bus picks him up at 8am in front of his house and brings him back at around 3:45pm. He also goes to karate two days a week, does gymnastics two days a week and has a music class once a week. He is also in a reading club so he reads from 30 to 60 minutes a day, besides doing his homework and working on school projects. Michael is also a Cub Scout and he has den meetings once a week, and pack meetings and campouts once a month, respectively. His homework takes him between 30 minutes to an hour daily.
Sara is 8 years old and the eldest of two children. Her parents have her in after school enrichment, as well as a popular reading and math tutoring program, soccer, and dance. Sara’s days also start at 6 am with breakfast and end at 8pm for her bedtime. She and her sister’s schedules are filled with educational and extracurricular activities, which her parents consider necessary to raise them to have the skills and competencies necessary in today’s world.
Do either of these schedules sound familiar? As a society, we have turned into overachievers and downtime is often considered a waste of time. As parents, it is a challenge not to saturate our children with extracurricular activities which often results in children being overcommitted and stressed out.
When you and your family are involved in too many activities, eventually, everyone gets burned out and quality family time suffers. When it seems like you, your spouse and your children are all going in opposite directions, you need a system for keeping it all together and setting limits. With solid scheduling and continued communication, you and your spouse needn’t ever experience that last-minute panic over who’s expected to take whom where and when, or the stress of over-commitment.
Desiree Silva, a psychologist in Dallas, TX, says that the problem with the over-commitment of children is that it causes them to operate in a state of constant anxiety. “Children who are overcommitted, not only live with stress and anxiety; they will most likely grow up to be anxious adults,” says Silva. She adds that overcommitted children often do not learn to value family. “When children do not spend time with the family, they do not develop that cohesion with and appreciation for the family unit,” says Silva. And the over-commitment of children can also affect the whole family. “Parents work and then they rush home to take children to their extracurricular activities. Meals are eaten on the go. Parents are stressed out and too exhausted to engage in normal family activity at the end of the day.
Children can experience extreme stress and its associated symptoms just like adults. However, they are unable to manage their stress or understand it. And a leading cause of stress in children is having them involved in too many extracurricular activities.
So, what can be done to help kids manage their stress? Here are a few ideas:
- Drop a few: Not pounds, but extracurricular activities for your children.
- Relax: Your children will be okay. If your child has the aptitude and the motivation for something he likes, be it art, music or math, he will do well in this area without all the extra training and time commitment.
- Downtime is quality time: Children need time to decompress and make the transition from one activity to the next, besides resting. Children also need plenty of restorative sleep.
- Let children be children: Kids need to play, goof around, get dirty, annoy their parents and siblings, chase the dog, and engage in those behaviors and activities that are part of their normal development.
- Plan but don’t push: Yes, we all want our kids to excel. But there’s a difference between motivating our children and pushing them into following our agenda.
Excerpts from: Are We Overcommitting Our Kids? By Dr. Tanginika Cuascud