By Kathy Sacoulas
How to manage your child’s schedule so that they can still have a childhood
School, dance, martial arts, basketball, baseball, instruments, tutoring…..where does it end? We start off with great intentions, trying to give our children the opportunities this great nation affords us. These are things our parents weren’t able to do and we swore we would let our kids have these. But to what end? It’s important to remember that they have to have time to enjoy free time and that these activities should be manageable and fun for them.
So here are some tips on choosing activities:
- Choose something they enjoy. While youngsters tastes change frequently, it’s important that they show interest in the activity you are choosing for them. Have them try it out for the duration of the membership offered and if they like it, stick to it. Don’t allow them to quit in the middle though and make sure they understand that when you start something, you must finish it. With anything your child does, make sure they maintain the original commitment they signed up for. You can make this easier by being committed yourself and enforcing the discipline required. Kids only quit if you allow them to quit.
- Choose activities whose schedules you can adhere to and whose proximity is easy for you. As parents, you are the ones who must be diligent about attendance and commitment so it’s important that you find it easy to fit the commute into your schedule. It’s easy in the beginning when you’re excited but as time does on, you must make sure it doesn’t become a burden on you to bring your child to that activity or else you won’t go.
- Choose up to 2 activities at a time. Don’t bombard your child with too much. It’s easy to get excited but the overwhelm can lead to an adverse effect, causing unnecessary stress to your youngster. Two or three times a week is good enough and will lead to a more lasting effect than something that requires hours each day of training. Kids need downtime to be free to play and be bored, so that their own creative brain development can occur. Characteristics like problem solving, initiation, and perseverance are all qualities that can be borne out of boredom and downtime (so don’t allow for devices to enter this time as well).
- Keep in mind that your child may not be an olympian or the next NBA champion. We all dream that our child will be the next Michael Phelps or Michael Jordan and for the very few, this is a reality. It’s great to dream but to put the pressure on a child to achieve that is very taxing. Be a supportive parent, one that praises your child for their hard work but don’t place undue stress on your children because it can lead to anxiety and dislike for the activity they are doing. It’s their passion they have to develop, not yours.
- Keep their activity even when school is getting more demanding. Big mistakes parents make are removing their kids from all activities when state tests start happening or when grades start to fall. In reality, you should be making sure they keep their activity schedule routine as it will make their time more structured. It will prepare them for the upcoming high school and college years more effectively and these activities will allow them to release stress and excess energy that will be necessary to perform in school better.
- Finally, let them be kids! We all didn’t have these extracurricular activities as kids and we were allowed to have fun and free childhoods, that taught us important life skills necessary to function in the real world. By taking away this time, we are depriving our kids of important developmental education. Let your kids have free time to play, create, release their energy and just not have to do anything! They’ll have more than enough time in their adulthood to have things TO DO.