By: Dr. Erica Wollerman
Today, I wanted to share something that has been on my mind lately - the crazy world of overscheduling our kiddos. Now, don’t get me wrong, I totally get it! We all want the best for our kids, and we can get so caught up in the whirlwind of things we think we need to be doing for them or opportunities we need to provide them with.
Sometimes it feels like we are living in the era of trying to make our kids “super kids.” We want them to excel at everything they do and are willing to invest in them accordingly. Private lessons for a sport they just started? Why not! Extracurricular activities on a daily basis? Sure! Especially if you can afford to pay for these things, it can be hard to hold ourselves back from doing so. It can be hard to take a step back and think about what we communicate to our kids by doing so much all the time.
As a psychologist, I worry a lot about both the message we send to our kids by having their days packed as though they are a mini CEO, but I also worry about the impact on us as parents.
For the kids, I think that, unfortunately, we give them the message that their worth and value in the world are only driven by their actions and accomplishments rather than who they are as people. Additionally, it gives them little room to explore, play, and have down time that they need in order to consolidate the information they are learning all day. The major downside of this for them is that they can end up feeling like they need to be busy and accomplished to be worthy.
And they can miss crucial opportunities for learning other parts of life that are outside a curriculum or activity, such as how to manage boredom, how to entertain yourself, how to cope with uncomfortable feelings, and how to develop their own interests on their own (without an adult’s support or guidance). I often wonder how our kids will develop creativity and passions without having more time to learn about who they are on the inside.
Plus, let's not forget about the stress it puts on us as parents. The logistics alone could be a full-time job! Racing from one activity to another, trying to beat the clock, and crossing our fingers that the traffic gods are on our side—it's exhausting. We barely have time to catch our breath, let alone have quality family moments.
I believe that overscheduling leads to parents and kids often feeling that they can never do enough or be enough. There just are not enough hours in the day for us to provide all of the enrichment we feel we need to provide for our kids. And by adding in activity after activity, we communicate to our kids that the way through our feelings is to always take action.
I propose an alternative idea here. Let's aim for a balanced approach instead of running around like headless chickens. Choose a couple of activities that genuinely excite and interest our kids, and make sure there's still plenty of downtime just to be kids. This can also give us time as parents to have some of our own interests as well, which can only help our children as it helps us show them a more balanced life and an adult who is hopefully not perpetually busy and stressed.
Another idea is to involve our kids in the decision-making process. Ask them what activities they enjoy the most and what they'd like to explore further. This way, we encourage autonomy and let them shape their own experiences.
Of course, every family is different, and what works for one might not work for another. So let's not fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to other families and their schedules. Let's do what feels right for our kids and our own sanity. While it might be hard to believe this, childhood is not intended to be a race to adulthood with adult responsibilities! It is meant to be a time of play, development, and learning.
At the end of the day, our goal is to raise happy, healthy, and well-rounded individuals. And that means striking that perfect balance between activities and downtime. So here's to embracing the messy, fun, and unplanned moments of childhood—let's savor them while we can!
If you are interested in learning more about connecting with your child please make sure to sign up for our newsletter! Dr. Wollerman will be launching a parenting course all about this topic later this summer or early fall! You do not want to miss it!
At Thrive, we take a positive, client-centered approach to therapy that is focused on creating a genuine connection with our clients. If you would like to talk with a Thrive Therapist about yourself, your child, or teen attending therapy we offer in person and telehealth via video sessions, please reach out to us by phone at 858-342-1304.
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