Overcommitted Kids? Resolutions to Get Your Family Back on Track for 2016
Parenting is one of the toughest jobs on earth. As moms and dads navigate the slippery slopes of parenthood, many start to form their own parenting style. These styles even come with unique labels, including terms such as Tiger Mom, who teaches their kids to go for what they want and never take no for an answer, and Helicopter Mom, the parent who hovers and controls their child’s every move in a undermining and stifling way. There’s Overachiever Mom, who has little Suzie enrolled in dance, volleyball, band, Tae Kwon Do, art class, singing lessons and theater. She’s proud of her daughter’s accomplishments, but Suzie hasn’t had a playdate in months and has forgotten the simple joys of coloring or watching clouds.
The reality is that today’s children are pushed to their limits and spread very thin by an overabundance of before-school, after-school and extra-curricular activities, often orchestrated and supported by their well-meaning parents. These parents sign their offspring up for a multitude of things primarily to keep them busy and engaged, or to help ensure they maintain a competitive edge in sports or academics. But the result can be overstuffed days and kids who are tired, frazzled and struggling to keep up.
Enrichment activities are a viable option because they add many positives to our kids’ lives. The problem arises when families lose the ability to balance these activities with down time, free time or fun time. But parents aren’t always the culprits. Sometimes it’s the kids themselves, spurred on by peer pressure or wanting to participate in things that “look fun,” who often bite off more than they can chew by committing to one obligation after another. This is when parents need to be active in their child’s decisions and help them prioritize based on passions and likes.
Everyone involved needs to remember that there is no down side to down time. Just as toddlers need time to grow and flourish through play, older children need the benefit of taking a break from homework and structured activities to enjoy social time with friends or to simply chill out.
If part of your focus for the New Year is to be less of a tiger mom and more of a free range parent, here’s some guidance for those who feel they’re slipping into the abyss of an over-scheduled life:
• Parents can make a positive shift in the right direction by setting limits on the number of activities their child can participate in. The rule of thumb seems to be three activities per week: one sport, one social activity such as Girl or Boy Scouts, and one artistic-based activity, perhaps art classes or music lessons. These three options are plenty for kids who are also juggling homework and school.
• Set a limit on the hours they spend on these weekly activities; experts advise keeping it around an hour per activity.
• Parents should use common sense and gut instinct when their child wants to continually add more activities to their already packed schedule and note signs of fatigue when what they are currently doing seems like too much.
• Identify how a glut of activities is affecting the family as a whole. Has the act of gathering around the table for a family meal gone by the wayside? As a parent, are you feeling stressed and stretched thin as you race your child from commitment to commitment? Mindfully looking at an overall snapshot of your family’s life and well-being is often enough to get everyone back on track.
• Just as adults need time that doesn’t involve work, children need ample time with no activities or fun time. The beauty of this is that the two sides can then come together to create activities of their own that they can enjoy as a family or as individuals.
Yes, being a parent is tough yet very rewarding work. With these few tips, 2016 can be a year that includes the best of all worlds for your family! HLM
Sources: momjunction.com, realsimple.com and webmd.com.
The Warning Signs of an Overscheduled Child:
• There’s a change in mood or personality. Your typically happy child is now dragging herself from one activity to another with reduced interest.
•You don’t see your child just doing nothing. Overscheduled kids may become so used to the constant motion and the rush of having to be somewhere all the time that they simply forget what it’s like to intentionally slow down and relax.
• Your child looks and acts tired and admits he isn’t sleeping well. This overly
tired condition is usually accompanied by complaints of headaches, muscle aches and overall “just not feeling right.”
• Grades are dropping and homework isn’t getting done. School should always be a top priority for families, but if kids are stretched so thin they are struggling to find the time to study or do homework, it’s time to make some changes to their schedule.