21 Jul 2014 When is it too much?
by Katelin Whiddon
I’ve seen a constant growing trend to have our children engaged in as many activities as possible. Far too often, I hear families talk about how many sports, clubs and other activities children participate in. I fear that these activities can take over more important things.
It hasn’t been all that long since I was in grade school, but even then, church and school were the top priorities. I played softball for a few seasons, took piano lessons and was very active in my church and Conway High School’s band. Between those activities and school/homework, that was plenty busy. Now, it seems as if kids are in several clubs, multiple sports teams — sometimes more than one in each season — and other extracurricular activities. Often, kids stay up far later than they should to keep up, and their performance seems to suffer.
Don’t take this as an opposition to extracurricular activities. I support extracurricular activities as they are proven to have a positive effect on children. Kidshealth.org suggests numerous benefits of these activities, including improved social skills, keeping kids out of trouble, looking good on resumes and college applications and many more. However, adding too many activities can add unnecessary and unwanted stress on the entire family.
As adults, it is very easy to have too much on our plates — I can say I’m incredibly guilty of that. So why can’t we let our kids be kids and enjoy a more laid back lifestyle? Sometimes I would love to go back to the limited responsibilities and slower pace of those adolescent years.
School is a necessity for the majority of kids through the majority of the year — this is something that will have to be at the top of the priority list for nearly all families. We should account for the 8 hours a day that kids are in school, plus time in the evenings for homework. If religious activities are a priority for your family, be sure to account for those hours each week as well. Beyond that, each child should only have a limited number of extra activities they participate in. Whether these be school activities, sports teams or any other interests, try not to jam pack your calendar with activities for each child.
Having some sort of routine is good for anyone — from infants to adults — so try to make a plan of your routine and try to stick to it as best as possible. Choose your child’s bedtime, and then pencil in time for each activity. If you are running out of time in your planned routine, try to make adjustments before you commit your child to too much. One day they won’t have a choice in all that they have to squeeze in to one day, so try not to make that time come any sooner than it has to.
A native of Conway, Katelin Whiddon is a family nurse practitioner at Central Arkansas Pediatrics. She and her husband, Daniel, have two daughters. A graduate of the University of Central Arkansas, she has her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.