Is your child too busy?

We take care of our kids till they’re 3 years of age (if we can) and then ship them off to school. With school comes a host of extracurricular activities – everything from swimming to Taekwondo, from art classes to singing, from piano to baking and from soccer to well, reading classes. Basically, we’ve got them booked all week with one or more classes each day. Whether the motive is to enhance their overall development, encourage flair in some specific areas, allow for social mingling with other kids or let’s be honest for a second – to get rid of them for an hour extra per day, there is a need to draw a line at how much is too much for a young child. Here are signs that your child is over-scheduled and you need to address it and take a step back right this moment –

  • Your kid is ALWAYS busy – Quite literally, you don’t see them zoned out in front of TV or doing nothing for a change. They’re always shuttling places, catching up with homework or practicing their keyboards. If there’s no down time for a child, he’s too overscheduled. You’ve got to prioritize and cut it down a few notches.
  • She doesn’t enjoy her favourite things anymore – You know the bribe routine. A bar of Dairy Milk used to set most things right. Not anymore. If your child stops enjoying things she’s routinely liked in the past, it’s a sure sign of stress and that she’s got too much going on to delight in life’s simple pleasures. Activities are like sweets – enjoyable when in limited quantities, but will make you sick if in excess.
  • Your child acts like an old man – Maybe it’s the hunched back from a truckload of books for school and after school work, maybe it is chronic headaches, maybe it’s the grumpiness and constant irritability, but if your child no longer has the carefree-ness that goes with the age, then something’s bothering him and most likely, it is his overworked schedule.
  • School performance is dropping – There are only so many fingers that your child can dip in multiple bowls. With everything you’ve got her doing, there’s a certain chance that she isn’t enjoying school itself too much and that means that her performance is now nowhere nearly as good as it used to be. Remember, school should be top-priority unless you’ve got an Olympic champ on hand. So, spin the odds that way till she settles to a more comfortable routine.

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  • Travel takes a huge chunk of time – Even if you’ve scheduled multiple classes within your own society, there’s quite a bit of time spent in the logistics – change of clothes, wearing and taking off footwear, preparing the appropriate bags and walking to and back from the classes all saps the energy off of a young child. It’s worse if you’re driving them to classes. Not only do they have to commute to and from school, there are classes every single day too. Think about it. If your petrol bills are up, if your car is like family, then you know you’re in trouble.
  • Your child has no real best friend – Kids usually form bonds with other kids who are like them. For this, it takes a level of similarity, of spending time with each other and personal communication. Sometimes, kids are overworked and zoned out and are not in the mood to make conversations with anyone who might be best friend material too. If your child is shuttling too many classes, this may be the case. Or if a best friend of the past is no longer in the picture, it could be because your child simply doesn’t have the bandwidth to spend.
  • Moodiness – Kids have mood swings worse than bipolar disorder, for sure. But if it seems way more intense than usual, and if it doesn’t get placated as usual, then you’ve got to look harder.
  • Meals on wheels – If your child is too busy to sit down and have a meal, he’s too busy. If you’ve got him snacking between classes, drinking Lemonade on the way home, then he’s too busy. Stop, just stop.
  • Your child is clingy – Clinginess is a trait that comes and goes with new scenarios in kids. Unstructured time is super important for kids to develop their imaginations and their social skills. If in an environment of not being told what to do, a child seeks out an adult for instruction, it just means they’ve been overscheduled and have no idea what to do with themselves.
  • You’re tired – Carting the kids from one class to another eventually takes its toll – on you. If you’re too tired to fathom what class is next, it’s time to take a hard look and reconsider.

What are the ill effects of overscheduling your kids?

  • Stress-related health problems – Eating poorly, sleeping poorly are all side effects of having a full calendar at a young age.
  • Anxiety – Not having the time to unwind means your child is always on the go. He’s always worried about not having completed the work for one class or the other or has the stress of not performing well in one or more of these things. This beats the purpose of having extracurricular activities.
  • Socially awkward – Being in so many classes means being told what to do all the time. This means that under unstructured time with no instructions, these kids are often lost and seek adult instruction. They’re unable to initiate or sustain play with peers.

If you’re uncertain if your child has the aptitude or interest for a certain class, consider putting them in for a trial period. At the end of it, evaluate objectively and together with your child, make a decision on whether its best to continue or not. Remember, hobbies and passions are great and are meant to be stress-busters and not stress inducers.

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