Is it just us, or do our children’s schedules seem to get busier and busier with each passing year? According to Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld, a child psychiatrist and author of The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap, overbooking our children with too many extracurricular activities is a nationwide problem. Children are under increasing pressure to compete with their peers and demonstrate a high level of achievement–oftentimes with college applications in mind. The consequences are severe: overscheduling can lead to clinical depression, among other mental health issues. Here are five tips to avoid overscheduling your child:
1) Try to have at least a few family dinners per week.
With the entire family carpooling to and from activities and trying to accomodate everyone’s schedules, it can be easy to neglect family dinners. However, researchers from the Family Dinner Project link regular family meals with “the kinds of behaviors that parents want for their children: higher grade-point averages, resilience and self-esteem.” Time spent with the family gives kids a chance to decompress, talk about their day, and reconnect with their parents and siblings.
2) Make time for your child to be bored.
Another result of overscheduling is that children have virtually no “nothing time”. Children need unstructured play during their early developmental years to foster their creativity. Children need enough time to play freely and to create something from nothing with their own resources.
3) Create space for family relationships.
Overbooked children miss out on spending a significant amount of downtime with their families. Children who are constantly running from one activity to the next will not have the kinds of important memories that are created while talking, playing games, going on walks, and simply hanging out with their families.
4) Let your child discover their hobbies.
What do you like to do in your spare time? What would you do if you were left to your own devices for a few hours? These are the kinds of questions that your child needs to figure out in their spare time to develop a sense of self-awareness. Children with completely booked schedules don’t have the time to discover what they’re interested in.
5) Don’t jump to start scheduling your child’s extracurricular activities.
Child psychology experts maintain that enrolling children in extracurricular activities too young is not always a good idea. Some children are overwhelemed by so many new responsibilities and can develop stress disorders as a result.
Children can easily get stressed out when confronted with too many commitments. Sometimes we just need to let kids be kids, and remember that we don’t have to schedule every moment for them.