If you are a parent of school age kids, you are probably in full swing with school, activities, sports, clubs, and all that come with the school year. I think it’s a good time to check in with yourself and with your kid about their schedule to make sure it’s as balanced as it can be.
We know that having a structured schedule in the school year is super important. Having a routine that kids can trust in, rely on, and be consistent with is what allows them to thrive. We also know that some of the after-school activities are so crucial to their development. For example, sports allow them aphysical outlet and physical exercise. Along with sports, other types of clubs and activities allow them a social outlet, time for social development and an opportunity to grow in that way. We also know that after school activities help them develop a sense of competency and mastery, which is really important. For older kids, it allows them to stay busy during those prime times where high risk behaviors can happen after school.
What happens when over-scheduling occurs?
What we know can happen when this is the case is it can actually interfere with competency and mastery. If a kid is spread too thin, it’s hard for them to get really good at one or two things. We also know that just like us as adults when we’re overbooked, we can feel overwhelmed, overly tired, emotional, cranky, irritable, etc. Those are signs that a kid might be too booked.
How much is too much?
This question varies from kid to kid because your kid is different than other kids and has a different tolerance for how much they can handle. There are a few questions that I think are important to ask yourself and/or your kid to figure out if they’re in that sweet spot or if they’re venturing into that overbooked place.
Do they have time for homework? Are they able to get the homework done that needs to be done for that night in a good amount of time?
Can they get a full night’s sleep? I know there are different schools of thought about how much sleep is enough, but can your kid get roughly 8-10 hours of sleep a night with the schedule that they have?
Can your kid still participate in family activities? For middle and high schoolers, they may not lead onto this, but they really need you during this time of their life. They need those family rituals and activities that allow them to stay connected and grounded. We want to make sure we’re still providing an opportunity for those to happen, even if they’re on the weekends.
Do your kids feel like they have a social life with their schedule? As we talked about, some of the activities they can get involved in allow for that, but do they feel so booked that they don’t have time to engage with their friends in a social or relaxed manner? That is super important. One of the developmental tasks in middle and high school is a development of and formation of their identity. We want to make sure we’re creating time for them to have down time to connect with others and to be creative and self-discover.
Those are a few questions to check in about and if the answer to any of these is no, your kid may be a little bit too booked. You can always pair down some of those activities or check in with them about which ones they would really like to continue and create a schedule that works for them in a really balanced way.
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