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Are You Overscheduling Your Kids?

Parents often jokingly describe themselves as chauffeurs for their children, and that’s not too far off—between baseball practices, dance lessons, and after-school tutoring sessions, the modern kid has many obligations. If it all feels like a little too much, it just might be.

Changing Times

You likely grew up riding bikes with the neighbors, building forts, and setting up tea parties for your dolls. It’s called unstructured play, and it develops imagination, creativity, dexterity, decision-making skills, and even strength. Kids today do less of that. Now we’re encouraged to give our children access to technology and enroll them in enrichment activities. The busier they are, the more successful they’ll be—or so the theory goes.

Old-fashioned toys like rattles for babies, blocks for toddlers, and jump ropes for kindergarteners have been replaced by tablets and phone screens. Plus, some schools are cutting back on recess in favor of more classroom study, leaving children with very little time to explore structure-free play.

There’s no doubt that activities do provide a developmental benefit, but not all kids thrive with a packed schedule.

Spotting Stressed-Out Kids

How do you know if your child is spread too thin? Kids won’t always speak up, especially if they feel like dropping an activity would disappoint you. Those who are being pushed beyond their comfort limits to the point of anxiety may show the following symptoms:

  • Avoiding family and friends

  • Lack of appetite

  • Nervousness

  • Disrupted sleep

  • Headaches

  • Stomach pain

  • Depression

Paying attention to your child’s personality and behavior will help you determine what balance of activities is best for your family.

Less Can Be More

If your busy child seems frazzled instead of flourishing, don’t be afraid to try the “less is more” approach. FOMO—that stands for “fear of missing out”—is something many adults might experience these days. But what your child may be missing out on is high-quality family time with no agenda; the kind where you make dinner together, work on an art project, or just chat. They need the opportunity to play around in cardboard boxes and sing made-up songs. Remember that not all downtime is unproductive—sometimes it’s just what the doctor ordered.

Creating a strong foundation for your kids doesn’t always mean putting them in every extracurricular program you can find. Modeling good behavior, providing guidance, and showing love are all better ways to set them up for success.

 

© 2000-2018 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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