The (Really) Busy Child
While it is certainly important to engage children in activities, and to give them skills and confidence, it is also possible to overbook your child. Today, children are often scheduled in after-school activities well into the late afternoon and early evening; and, they are often scheduled for more activities than they can really handle. How do you know how many activities to offer a child?
Age Appropriate Activities
First of all, consider the age of your child and the activities that would be appropriate for him to participate in and enjoy. Consider your child's development, interests and nature so that he will have fun during these activities - and will build confidence with them. If the child is continually frustrated during art class because he's not ready to be drawing a still life, this will only reinforce negative messages and lower his self confidence. If your child hates organized activities, putting him in a soccer club to try to break him from this aversion may not be the best idea.
Most children can enjoy one or two after-school activities, but need to have limits set beyond this. It is very important to consider the entire picture when planning after-school activities. Is there enough down time given for the child to unwind after school, have a snack, and spend time relaxing? Is there enough time for homework? You may want to allow your child to do one activity, at first, and then slowly add in more activities as you deem that he can handle the extra participation.
Remember Family Time
Having dinner as a family and being together in the house are very important. Too often, families don't make time to be together, as they are running from one activity to another. Along with extra-curricular activities, take these ideas into consideration when scheduling your child's time. If you are racing across town each day from 4-7pm to drive him to and from band practice, you may be sacrificing the family's time together, your time with your child, and his down time. These are all very important issues.
Signs You're Overdoing It
What are some of the signs that you may have overbooked your child? Your child may show a sudden lack of interest in an activity that he had loved before; he may appear depressed or exhausted. Perhaps he begins to complain about physical aches or to show emotional stress. He may burst into tears before a test, saying he doesn't have time to study for it; or he may yell at you each week before art class since he's stressed about juggling so much.
You certainly want your child to be skilled and well-rounded. You also need him, however, to be sane and relaxed. It is important to consider the balancing act between scheduling him for activities and allowing him time to relax after school. Keep these ideas in mind as you begin to build a schedule for the new school year or to add in more extra-curricular activities into your child's life.