Whether they do so by choice or at the behest of their parents, kids often sign up for one too many after-school activities.
Extra activities such as music lessons or sports may help kids become more well-rounded, but keeping a kid too busy can put a strain on the whole family. Overbooked families are usually stressed, worn out, and tend not to spend much time together, says Josh Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
To keep a kid’s schedule from impacting the family, Klapow suggests educating kids on what certain activities will entail, balancing adult and kid activities, and carving out dedicated family time. In addition, parents should be sure to watch for signs that their child may be feeling a bit overcommitted.
Questions to ask yourself
A too-busy kid may be tired, irritable, nervous, easily distracted, or frequently complain of headaches or stomach aches. They might also struggle to keep their grades up.
Before allowing kids to sign up for multiple activities, Klapow says parents should ask themselves the following questions:
How many hours per week should be spent on extracurricular activities?
What activities is your child interested in?
What will your child’s homework load look like?
Is it practical to have more than one activity per season?
What are the means for transportation to and from each activity?
What activities are your other children involved in?
What are your activities, and how do these play into scheduling?
What are your commitments professionally?
Striking a balance
Parents should make sure kids know exactly what they’re signing up for, as well as what school demands they will also be expected to keep up with.
“Be upfront with your kids,” Klapow said. “If the activities require that the child be at practice right after school, note that this will cut into their play time with their friends, as homework will need to be completed when they get home before dinner.”
Additionally, parents should know what will be required of them should their child choose to participate in an activity. If juggling transportation and attendance demands in addition to your normal work schedule doesn’t sound feasible, it may not be worth it.
“Driving your health into the ground in order to accommodate your child’s schedule is simply not a smart thing to do,” Klapow said, adding that in this busy world, “sometimes the best means less.”