You spent months ensuring timetables coincided, courses got booked, and materials were just right. But despite ending up with the ideal schedule, something does not seem quite right. Your daughter is not as excited about soccer this year, and your son complains about having to go to school every morning. Unfortunately, this is the scenario facing many parents of children ranging from pre-school to high school.
Often it is the obligation parents feel to keep up with society that causes them to carry on with stressful schedules. Research has consistently found high rates of anxiety disorders in children and youth. (between 20 and 26 percent, depending on the ages). Anxiety can lead to depression, and depression can lead to not wanting to do anything at all.
Warning signs your child is overscheduled
Your child feels lethargic or tired. His first reaction is not of excitement when you mention having to leave for school or for hockey practice. Getting up in the morning may also be difficult.
She seems unhappy, or just “okay.” She doesn’t laugh as much as she used to and has become less talkative.
He complains of stomachaches, shortness of breath, headaches or dizziness.
It is impossible to get the family together for dinner most nights. Everyone has conflicting schedules.
There is no time for relaxation, play, or even for the children to help at home with daily activities.
Tips for Slowing Down
Learn to prioritize
Grab your calendar and make time for what is essential first: spending time together as a family, relaxation and play. Once you have that time set apart, you can begin adding in other activities.
Involve your child
You may think hockey is the best choice for your child, but he may prefer swimming or soccer. Childhood is the time to discover. Make sure you ask your child every semester how he feels about the activities he is taking, before booking again.
Limit the amount of co-curricular activities
A healthy balance usually involves one physical activity per week and one arts-related activity. Keep in mind each activity involves practice time.
Sit with your child to do homework.
By connecting with your child over homework you’ll learn how your child is doing both academically and socially. You’ll also have the opportunity to teach your child great values and skills, such as discipline and organization. Your child will feel supported, loved and understood.
Make sure there is time to read and get a good rest.
Reading is a very important habit. It stimulates the intellect and imagination and leads to recognition from teachers and society. This alone will make a dramatic impact in your child’s self-confidence, which in turn, will spread to other areas.
Everyone changes, especially children. What your daughter likes today may not be what she likes tomorrow. Take the time to explore options together, and show your child that she is the one in control of those decisions.
Today’s world requires creative thinkers and leaders. Cutting back on scheduled activities and empowering your child to create, socialize or play will decrease stress and help them flourish into leaders.
Natacha V. Beim is a writer, speaker, teacher, and the founder of Education & Fine Arts Junior Kindergarten schools.