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Are Your Kids Overscheduled?

posted: 09/08/16
by: Katherine Sosnoff
Kid Soccer
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School is officially back in session and with it comes sports practices, dance recitals and music lessons - and potentially exhausted, overscheduled kiddos along with them. While my own son is only one and is in no danger of being overscheduled (he can amuse himself by playing with a Tupperware bowl for about an hour), this is a topic that has received much attention in recent years and with good reason: going overboard on activities can lead to fatigue, depression, and anxiety in children. Still, some have argued that the topic may be overhyped and it's clear that structured activities are enriching and stimulating for kids, teaching them about problem solving, etiquette and creative thinking. Aimless kids are no better off than overscheduled kids, so those music lessons and sports camps aren't necessarily a bad thing.

However, you have to listen your gut and if you need three day planners to keep track of activities for one kid you might consider cutting back. Here are some guidelines to help keep your kids' activities (and your entire family's sanity) in check:

Make Time for Family Dinner: While it's tough to avoid those nights where you just have to grab food on the run, family dinners are extremely important. If they've become a thing of the past in your household, you may just simply have too many activities scheduled in the evenings. Try setting a limit and scheduling accordingly, aiming to have dinner together as a family at least four times a week.

Keep An Eye Out for Exhausted Kids: This may be an obvious one but if your kids are grumpy and way overtired, there may be something you can do about it. There's been much debate about the time school should start recently, and certainly an early wake up call can contribute to your kids dragging in the a.m. However, even if you're powerless to change the time the bell rings for your kids in the morning, you can help them sort out their afternoons, evenings and weekends. If your kids are barely able to keep their eyes open at the breakfast table, nixing the travel hockey team with the 11PM ice time might be an option to consider.

Sometimes, Quitting is Ok: While you want to establish a pattern of completing tasks and living up to expectations, your kids don't have to do everything. If they're having a blast with their indoor soccer team but are simply dreading their weekly cello lesson, it's ok to give it up.

Encourage Downtime: There's a reason the #letthembelittle hashtag is blowing up on Instagram - kids need to be kids. They need to spend time with friends, play outside and do otherwise aimless, fun activities just for the sake of it. If your kids barely have time for actual fun amidst all their scheduled 'fun,' they're probably missing out on some crucial kid time.