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Are your kids overscheduled?

What are the warning signs that your child is overscheduled? When the flyers come home, it all sounds like so much fun: Soccer and Scouts and art and baseball and drama and this and that and the other thing. Your child practically begs you, “Please, Mom, please?” At first, the schedule seems doable; everything is on a different day. But it quickly becomes overwhelming. What was one day of soccer turns to practice on one day and a game on another. There’s rehearsal, meetings and something else you can’t remember for something else. Suddenly, everyone is crabby, grades and sleep are suffering, and your child is complaining of headaches. What happened?

Overwhelmed ChildCongratulations. Your child is over-scheduled, and so are you.As much as your child or you might want to do everything, and as fun as everything sounds, you just can’t do it all. It’s not realistic or even healthy. Before it goes any further, it’s time for a schedule intervention.

Symptoms of over-scheduling

Signs of over-scheduling in kids can take many forms, and the way kids express it varies, even within a family. One child might develop insomnia. Another displays signs of anxiety, while still another shows disinterest in a previously favorite activity. Watch for subtle as well as overt signs. Any hint that your child is not content should be evaluated further. Check in with your child regularly by asking how she is feeling about her various activities. If your child really loves an activity, great. But if he doesn’t? Maybe it’s time for a revisit.

Setting priorities and limits

When you can’t remember the last time your family sat down to dinner together, it’s time to get that event on the calendar and have a family talk. Ask everyone at the table to list their activity priorities. What activities do they feel most attached and committed to? If something needs to drop away so family time can be reestablished, what are the kids willing to give up? What are the parents willing to give up?Be realistic during such a conversation about the total expense of an activity. What does it cost in emotional and time commitment as well as dollars from the bank account? Is it worth it?It’s also okay â€” actually, necessary — as a parent to set the limits and say, “This is not working for us. We have to stop.” Some families limit the number of sports in any given season to one, for example, and limit overall activities to one or two. I’ve had the one-sport rule for years, but recently, in a fit of confidence, I agreed to let one of my sons sign up for a second sport. The scheduling was insane, and we just had to stop one sport. My son was upset at first, but now, a few weeks later, he understands why. Our lives are a bit calmer — not calm, but calmer.

Protecting downtime and preventing burnout

While keeping busy is great on many levels, kids also need downtime. They — and you — need time just to be. Downtime helps kids recharge emotionally and physically, so they’re ready for the activities they and you have prioritized. Likewise, having some downtime in each day can help your kids avoid burnout with the activities they do enjoy. When kids can really look forward to their activities rather than rushing from one thing to another, they get more enjoyment from it all, and so will you.

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