Is your child overscheduled?
Many parents cart their children from one activity to the next on a daily basis leaving kids tired, cranky and with little time to play.
Dr. Sudhir Gokhale, a psychiatrist at Advocate Christ Medical Center and Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill., offers a helpful rule of thumb for determining whether or not a child has too much on his or her plate.
“Kids should be excited and enthusiastic about activities in which they are involved,” Dr. Gokhale says. “If vigor is lacking, then you are pushing them to do more than they need to. We see other kids so heavily involved, and this causes parents to feel a societal pressure to sign their children up as well.”
As a result, parents often push their children to join as many activities as possible, he says. But the psychiatrist doesn’t think this is the only reason parents encourage their children to stay busy.
“So many people want to get kids involved in an effort to keep them out of trouble,” says Dr. Gokhale, who emphasizes the importance of allotting time in a child’s schedule for schoolwork, play and rest. “Giving children structure to their days is a good idea, but moderation is the name of the game.”
He offers the following tips to ensure children aren’t overdoing it:
- Every activity doesn’t need to be an organized one. Kids can play soccer in the backyard — they don’t always have to be on a team.
- Ask your children what activities make them happy and what they don’t enjoy. Rearrange their schedule with this information in mind.
- Find the balance in encouraging your child to be involved in activities.
Overbooking a child’s life can affect parents, too.
“Parents can feel panic and stress from their son or daughter’s over involvement,” says Dr. Gokhale. “Instead of thinking a child wants to join an activity, the parent begins to think they need to do it because they believe they’re doing something good for their child. You may be pushing yourself too hard to be a successful parent.”
About the Author
Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is the public affairs coordinator at Advocate Children's Hospital. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.