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Schedule now, don't overschedule later

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Protecting time in the school year

One of the reasons summer time is so loved and dreamt about is the extended period of downtime. There’s less schedule, less demands, less exhaustion. It’s as much recovering from the very busy school year as it is enjoying the sunshine. As the summer winds down this year, however, think about ways you can prevent that over scheduling that causes all that exhaustion and such deep need for summer recovery. As the school year nears, consider the schedule carefully -- and don’t overschedule.

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Overscheduling is a common problem in many families. With so many opportunities and so many demands and expectations, it's easy to overschedule one or all members of a family. By preventing overscheduling before it starts, you can put your family on track for a much more reasonable -- and happier -- school year.

It's easy to overschedule

It's so easy to overschedule -- both a single child and a family as a whole. You start with the basics -- school itself! -- add in a sport, a scout troop and a class (music lesson, art class, and so on) per child and you're already super busy.

Then one says, "Mom, I really want to do this other class!" and it sounds like fun so you say yes. Then another says the same thing, and it sounds like fun, so you say yes. And then before you realize it, you and your kids are totally and completely overscheduled.

Understand your child's limits

Yes, all those things sound like so much fun to your child, and he or she really does want to make a commitment to each of them -- at least in theory. But your child has limits. Your child still needs adequate time to do homework, eat and sleep, and to have needed downtime and social time. If your child is booked every day of the week and even the weekends feel scheduled, your child is likely overscheduled. Something has to go!

Understand your limits

Meanwhile, you as a parent trying to enable and facilitate all these awesome things your kids want to explore have limits, too. It's more than not being able to be in two places on the opposite side of town at the same time. It's physical grind of all the getting the kids places, maintaining a home life and probably keeping up with work, too. How are you going to get the groceries, much less get the kids to dentist appointments with schedules like this? Taking advantage of carpools and such only goes so far. You need downtime, too, or you'll be burnt out by Halloween.

Stop the stress before it starts

Before the school year schedule gets underway, set hard and fast limits -- and don't let your daughter's adorable gap-toothed smile sway you. Decide what you will allow for extracurricular activities for your kids and stick to it. School, of course, comes first, but then prioritize. Given time for homework and adequate rest and downtime, is it one sport and one other activity per child that your family can manage? Then decide it, discuss it and don't give in when your son wants to add horseback riding on top of scouts and lacrosse.

Be ready to pull back

Even with your best efforts -- even when you say no to try to prevent over scheduling -- it can still happen. A sport has a greater time commitment than you realized, or a class changed time or something else, and you can find your child and your family overscheduled. You might need to pull your child out of an activity. It's disappointing, to be sure, but if the bigger picture is telling you that this is too much, your child is exhausted and schoolwork is slipping, you have to it. You're the mom, not the friend and sometimes you have to make this hard decision. Your child may be upset, but stick to your decision.

Overscheduling is a common issue, but it can be addressed and prevented. Careful planning and thought as the school year begins can help you prevent over scheduling and burn out -- and will make for a happier family overall.

More on the family schedule

How to juggle the family schedule
Organizing a crazy family schedule
How to avoid overscheduling kids


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