How Busy is Too Busy for Your Kids?

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Many moms feel like they become a personal chauffer at a certain point, carting their kids from one activity to another throughout the week. From soccer practice to singing lessons, ballet to ballroom dance, parents are under enormous pressure to get and keep their kids involved with extracurricular activities.

Parents usually start feeling pressure to put their kids into an activity when they are around the age of 3.  Other parents may ask what sport a child is into or what classes they are taking, and that’s often enough for a parent to reevaluate her choices of activities.  Children learn best through play, but too often parents feel pressured to enroll their children into academically challenging preschools and sign them up for various team sports like soccer, even though they’re barely running, so that they don’t forfeit his chance to go pro.

According to the chair of ISA (Independent Schools Association) Graham Gorton, “Children like their own company.  They lose the capability to amuse themselves if everything is put in front of them in an organized, structured, club type way.”  Gorton also comments that if kids aren’t allowed to just go out and play they will fail to develop imaginative and inquiring minds.

Many parents worry that if they don’t enroll their children early enough, they’ll never become good enough. These concerns are often without merit.  In 10th grade Charles Barkley, retired NBA star, didn’t make his high school varsity basketball team.  He shot baskets in his neighborhood and jumped back and forth over a 4 foot high fence all the time, telling his mom that he was going to be in the NBA someday.  Barkley did not play in organized basketball teams from a young age. He was raised by his mom and grandma and they didn’t have any money to enroll him. This is just one example of many that shows that children can become successful at an activity at any age, and don’t need to start playing or practicing as toddlers to ensure success.

As a result of this pressure, many children are overscheduled. How can you tell if your child is doing too much?  Ask yourself if your child seems tired or lacks enthusiasm for things that he used to love. Does he complain about aches and pains that you never remember having when you were a kid?  Are his grades dropping?  Does he complain of headaches or bellyaches before heading to an activity?  If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, your child might be too busy.

The solution to an overly busy child can be as easy as cutting out one activity a week.  Create some down time in your family.  If, after you drop one thing, you don’t see enough of a change, then drop something else.  Consider creating an activity free day or two per week or insisting that certain times be free for family, school work, and good old fashioned, unscheduled fun.

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