Can our kids be involved in too many activities, and do too much? Should they specialize and spend all their time in one activity?
Although this is a tricky subject and every family is different, activity overload is real and can affect our children and our family relationships.
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Heather here from FamilyVolley.com and today we are talking about managing the activity overload and ask yourself…are your kids over scheduled?
Here are EIGHT tips to get your family on track.
Evaluate motives. The first thing we have to do is genuinely evaluate why we have our children involved in so many activities or why we feel it is so important for them to specialize so young. Why is it that we feel they must choose their “final” sport or activity when they are 5 and give it all their attention. What we tend to find is that often times it is more for us than them. Maybe it is to fulfill dreams we didn’t accomplish. Maybe we think the more they do, the better our family is or the better we are as a mom. Maybe we feel pressure from society, or the neighbors or our spouse. Maybe we are worried that if they don’t do everything, they will fall behind the other kids. Time to make sure our intentions are pure and figure out why we are so set on our children being involved in so many things.
Establish and honor values. We have to decide what our value system is and what we stand for/believe in. If we profess to believe in family time together, yet our kids are so involved in individual activities that we are never together, then we are going against our value system. If my husband and I believe that family dinner is VERY important, yet we are so busy in the evenings that we aren’t home to eat together, then we aren’t honoring our values. Either that or we REALLY DON’T believe family dinner is that important. We must decide what is most important and then make sure the way we spend our time, energy and resources, supports those values. When we go against what we believe, there is always internal struggle and stress.
Be mindful of the entire family. Often times the activity overload will focus on one family member. This usually isolates one child and one parent and takes them away from the rest of the family. This can make the siblings left behind feel left out. It also limits the time that siblings have to build relationships through play and time together. Providing opportunities for our children to build strong relationships with their siblings when they are young carries over into adulthood and helps relationships stay strong when spouses and distance come into play.
Be open minded. Don’t think that kids have to choose only one activity forever. Or that the activity they choose must be the same thing you or your spouse did growing up. Have an open mind. Let kids explore different options. Expose them to lots of things. Just remember to have them explore only ONE activity a SEASON.
Let go of the 10,000 hours rule. For so long there has been this belief that the only way to become a professional, or great at something was to put in 10,000 hours. To reach that, kids must start very young. This is no longer the case. Let go of this rule.
They can learn the principles at home. So often the argument is that if our children don’t start young and do it all, they will fall behind the other kids who have been playing since they were 4. Remember that so many of the skills that they need to learn can be learned at home. Can be learned through play. Can be learned with their families.
Age is key. Let age be your guide. It is suggested that kids should be involved in activities the same number of hours as their age. So, a 4 year old needs to only be involved in 4 hours of structured activity a week. Prior to age 12, 70-80% of their lives should be free play with only 20-30% spent in structured activity. Ages 13-15 should spend 50% of their time in structured activities and 50% in unstructured activities. Age 16+, 80% of their time can be spent in structured activities with 20% spent in unstructured play. It is at these later ages that kids should start to specialize if they are interested in one activity and spending more and more of their time developing their skills.
Focus on what contributes to successful children. We think that activity overload is the only way to have a successful child. That isn’t true. Successful children have things in common, and specialization (and/or activity overload) is not one of them. Instead, they have the following in common.
Eat dinner together with their families.
Work together with their families.
Have been taught social/emotional skills.
Have personal relationships with each of their parents.
Every family is different. Take the time to figure out what is best for your family and don’t hesitate to cut back on the activity overload at your house.
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