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Stop the Madness: Don’t Overschedule Your Child

by Dr. Susan Canizares | September 6, 2017 | Child Development

shutterstock_430511155These days, many children have schedules that could challenge most CEOs. Their days start early, end late, and are full of organized activities. Sports practices, music lessons, playdates, and homework for school-age children can result in stressed-out, unhappy children—and parents.

While parents want to prepare their children for the future, and believe they’re doing what’s in their child’s best interests, involving your child in too many extracurricular activities is not always a good idea and can actually be detrimental to their health.

Many children who are over scheduled will begin to show signs of being stressed out.

  • They may say they don’t want to go to their scheduled activities or cling to you when you try to leave.
  • They may complaint, or be tired all the time.
  • They may be angry, whine, or cry when it’s time to go to a scheduled activity.
  • They may have frequent stomachaches.
  • They may not eat or sleep well or have nightmares.
  • They may show low self-confidence.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you want to avoid overscheduling in your household:

Balance is Key: While child experts acknowledge that organized activities have many positive effects, as with most things, finding a balance is key. Young children are not often able to function well with so many responsibilities and may start to feel anxious about all the added pressure. Research shows that children need relationships more than they need activities. Pediatricians continue to stress the importance of family bonding.

Free Time: Children also need to have times without planned activities. Downtime allows for relaxation, free play, and family time. Adding this downtime to their schedule can help a child see that these unstructured times are just as important as their organized activities.

Boredom is Sometimes OK: Parents sometimes worry their children will be bored if every minute of their lives aren’t planned out. However, boredom can actually be beneficial to children! If your child complains of boredom, your first instinct may be to organize something for him to do. But really, you should be letting them figure it out for themselves. The ability to think critically, gather information, make decisions, and put all that into action is an important skill and we need to give children practice in that skill. Children who are able to do these things are generally more successful in school, and later in life.

So many parents lament that childhood goes by too quickly. Limiting the extracurricular activities is one way of slowing it down. You want your child to think fondly of their childhood, remembering all the time you spent together playing board games and talking walks outside.  Children only have one chance to be a kid, they should enjoy every minute of it!