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Tips For Preventing Extra-Curricular Overload

Dec 28, 2007
Spend some time at an elementary school sporting event or a PTA meeting, and you hear someone complain about his or her child's overly busy schedule. Soccer practice, piano lessons, band practice, scholar challenge meets, church youth group, collecting money for UNICEF, Scout meetings, play practice, dance class, drama club meetings, 4-H...the list never ends! Parents complain about running themselves ragged transporting children from one event to the next, but it's the overloaded children who feel the most pressure.

Extra-curricular overload causes serious problems for children. Being too busy can result in depression, low self-esteem, sleep problems, poor grades, and physical illness. Many parents enroll their children in multiple activities because they want them to experience the best that life has to offer. Others push for a busy schedule to impress college admission panels. These are noble motivations, but the result is often disastrous for the child.

Tips for Preventing Extra-Curricular Overload

Begin with one activity. Slowly add more if your child is adjusting well. Watch for signs of overload such as grouchiness, complaining about activities, brushing off practice time, changes in sleeping patterns, or failing school grades. Most children do best with only two or three extra-curricular activities.

Keep one day of the week free of all extra-curricular activities. This may be difficult to schedule with multiple activities, but it is crucial for the well-being of your child and gives the child a day off every week. Do not encourage them to practice an instrument, review lines for the play, or practice their fastball on this day. This is free time intended to allow your child to be a kid.

Allow your child to feel out an activity during a set probation time. If he decides in the first few weeks that playing the guitar is not for him, allow him to drop the classes without an argument. If the activity continues past the probationary period, though, the child must see the activity through to the end. This teaches the importance of honoring a commitment and perseverance.

Encourage only age-appropriate activities. Pushing a child to take guitar lessons at age five is not appropriate. Participating in difficult hobbies or activities geared toward older children is very stressful.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by your child's schedule, chances are that they are feeling the same. Talk with them about extra-curricular activities. Decide together what to keep and what to drop.

Rotate activities when possible. If your child plays football this semester, switch to music lessons when football season ends. This keeps the child from becoming bored with a group of activities.

Set limits. Make it clear to your child that schoolwork comes first. If your child's grades begin to slip, consider suspending extra-curricular activities for a period to allow the child to focus on schoolwork. Discuss these rules with your youngster at the beginning of each new activity and review the consequences of misplaced priorities.

Childhood is a time of exploration. Extra-curricular activities help children discover the world. Kids still must have time to be kids and enjoy life. Watch for signs of extra-curricular activity overload in your busy child and intervene when necessary for his or her well-being.
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