As a busy parent with a full-on life it’s easy to miss signs your kids are doing too much. It’s great knowing that your kids aren’t couch potatoes and don’t spend all their free time glued to a games console or TV, but just as we adults try to cram in as much as possible, kids can also be over-scheduled. If you don’t want to see your offspring burn out, become jaded and too over-tasked to squeeze out every last delight and thrill of childhood, look out for these signs your kids are doing too much.
1. Grades Are Dropping
One of the first telling signs your kids are doing too much is their grades start slipping. School should come first, then activities and hobbies second. School coming first also means that homework should come first too. If your child does not have enough time to do their homework, then one of their hobbies should be set aside until their grades are back up to scratch.
2. Your Child is Not Their Usual Happy Self
Signs your kids are overstretched come in many forms, but this is probably the worst one to see as a parent. No parent wants to see their child dragging themselves around, looking sad, or showing signs of anxiety. Research has shown that depression in children links to them having over-scheduled lives. It might well be better for your child to be just doing one activity, and excelling at it, rather than doing too many and not living up to your standards, or their own. Look out for signs of depression in your child; these include bad moods, avoiding friends, being quiet, and just not “themselves.”
3. You No Longer Eat Family Meals
Meal times are a great time for families to bond and talk about their days. If your child is missing meal times because they are at swimming lessons, dance practice, acting classes, and they are eating more meals on the go then that is one of the danger signals to be aware of. They are missing out on valuable family time, and you are missing out on catching up with them to see how they are.
4. They Don’t See Their Friends as Much Anymore
Friends are an important part of childhood, and you need to ensure that your children make time for them out of school. If your child is too busy to see their friends and no longer even gets invited to sleepovers or friends' parties, then these can be signs that your kids are doing too much and have no time for others.
5. Your Child Doesn’t Know What to do
If you’re not setting the schedule, does your child look at you for entertainment? Do they make their own entertainment? You can usually tell that your child is over-scheduled by the way they act around others in social situations. If they are being needy and tugging at your cardigan until you tell them what they should be doing then you should consider that your child might need to have a little bit less structure, use their imagination, and entertain themselves more than they do.
6. You’re Tired
Have you been ferrying your child around from place to place all week? Writing schedules in your diary, and getting stressed out? If you are tired, imagine how your child must feel actually taking part in physically draining activities. If this is the case then ask your child which activity they like the most, and consider phasing some of the others out.
7. You Can’t Remember the Last Time You Saw Your Kid Being a Kid
Think back and try to recall the last time you saw your child playing and doing something unstructured. If all you can think of is your child rushing to make an appointment, eating their dinner in the car, or practicing an instrument then consider it one of the key signs your kids are overstretched. Children want to chill out and have fun after school, just as adults want to after a hard working week. Make sure that your child has time to have fun and do something which hasn’t been planned. Invite their friends around and allow them the time to let their hair down.
In these days when we know an active lifestyle is important for our health and well being, it’s necessary to find the right balance of doing too much or too little. If you recognize any signs your kids are doing too much, please address the situation. You might need to make some lifestyle changes that affect you and/or the family, but it will be best in the long run. Are you so busy being a taxi driver, kit supervisor, coach, scheduler, personal mentor etc that you forget to remember your kids need time to be kids?