Are Your Kids Overscheduled?

© Christy King
© 2013 Christy King

“When I was growing up it was clean your plate because they’re starving in China. Now it’s go practice your instrument because kids in China are learning violin.”

– Michael Thompson

My last post was about overscheduled adults, but kids can be overscheduled, too. You’ve probably seen articles about this in the news over the past few years.

Some say the whole overscheduled-child thing is a myth, that all these activities are good for kids. On the other extreme, some say kids should have no structured extracurricular activities at all, just free play.

I suspect part of the reason for all the disagreement is that, just as with adults, some kids are happy to have full schedules, while others are stressed by them. Most kids will be happiest somewhere in between the extremes, I think. Some structured activities plus plenty of downtime.

Are your kids overscheduled or enriched?

Since everyone’s needs are different, don’t go by some preset number of activities, days off, or hours a day. The guidelines of other parents – or even experts – may not apply to your kids. Instead, pay attention to your children to see if they’re overscheduled or happily busy.

Are they getting enough sleep?

  • While individual needs for sleep vary, you might want to check out these guidelines.
  • Is your kid falling asleep every time he or she gets in the car? Having a hard time falling asleep at night? Or acting unusually hyperactive? Oddly, all are signs of sleep deprivation.
  • Does your child wake up well rested at the expected time most mornings?

How’s school going?

  • Does your kid have time to get all assigned homework completed?
  • Are his or her grades dropping?

What’s your child’s mood like?

  • Is your child easily frustrated or angered?
  • Are you seeing signs of depression or anxiety?
  • Does your child seem overwhelmed?
  • Is your child happy when you drop him or her off at an activity? What about at pick-up?

How’s your kid’s health?

  • Does your child frequently complain about headaches or stomachaches?
  • Does he or she have time to eat healthful balanced meals most of the time?
  • Is he or she eating significantly more or less than usual? This could be because of growth patterns, but it’s worth further attention.
  • If one or more of the extracurricular activities are sports, this isn’t an issue. Otherwise, does your child have time to exercise?

Does your child have downtime?

  • Does he or she have unstructured time with friends and family?
  • If your child is invited to a friend’s birthday party, are there too many commitments to fit it into the schedule?
  • Are you all able to eat meals together as a family on a regular basis?

How are you doing?

If you’re exhausted and/or have a short fuse because you’re too busy because of your kids’ activities, it’s time to drop some activities. Despite what some would have you believe, good parenting doesn’t require you to wear yourself ragged driving your kids all over town.

Your Turn

What about you? Have your kids ever been overscheduled? If so, how could you tell? What, if anything, did you do to slow your family’s life down?