Overscheduled Children: Signs & Symptoms
Nowadays there’s a great deal of discussion about adults being too busy and overly stressed, resulting in a terrible toll taken on their bodies. However, nobody seems to be applying the same concept to children or kids. And why would they? Isn’t it in their nature to be constantly all over the place and aren’t they essentially “hard wired” to be able to handle constant tasks and activities?
Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Studies have shown that too much activity and the stress that it induces, can have the same effect on a child’s body as it does on adults. Too much stress on a young one may cause lack of sleep, anxiety, lack of motivation, headaches, and may even cause them to fall behind in school. And what can create tremendous amounts of stress in a young adolescent? Being overscheduled!
We as parents are guilty of doing this to some degree or another. We allow them to sign up for soccer, dancing, swimming, piano lessons, and then some! Of course, parents only do this because they want their children to blossom, explore new things, and grow up to be prosperous young adults. But this is one of those examples proving that even the best of intentions for our children can sometimes be unhealthy.
Below are 4 signs to look for that may indicate your child is being overscheduled, followed by tips and solutions on how to plan a reasonable schedule in the future.
4 Signs of Overscheduled Kids
Sign #1 – They’re falling behind in school
One of the biggest tell-tale signs of an overscheduled child is that their grades begin dropping. While there are many reasons why a child’s grades could fall, if you notice that their daily activities are taking time and energy away from homework and study time, it may be time to reevaluate his or her schedule.
Every parent wants their kids to be productive and physically active, which can often lead to parents signing their kids up for more extracurricular activities than they can handle. This can lead to a false sense of productivity and can quickly turn into a time-sucking monster that eats away at their grades, so it’s important to be constantly evaluating your child’s progress in school and weighing their performance against their time commitments.
Sign #2 – They begin to lose interest in their favorite activities
Has your child lost interest in activities they used to love? Don’t dismiss this as your child simply outgrowing their old habits just yet. If they lose interest in one activity, they’re probably fine.
But if you notice they’re losing interest in many of their old favorite activities, it’s possible that they’re being overscheduled and as a result, they’re simply exhausted!
Sign #3 – Your Child is Anxious or Grumpy
Overscheduling children can often make them anxious, grumpy, or even depressed. Although being a jack of all trades can be admirable, it can have negative effects when it’s overdone because the more activities a child is involved in the less they’ll be able to fully master any one of those pursuits. This may cause them to feel like they can’t live up to their parent’s standards, or even their own.
The anxiety is manifested in the child as being more quiet, having more frequent bad moods, getting into more fights with their siblings, throwing more tantrums, or displaying more outbursts of bad, defiant behavior.
Furthermore, in the same way an adult can get stressed and irritable multi-tasking or meeting deadlines at work, over-scheduled children can also behave the same way when there’s too much going on in their life at once.
Sign #4 – Your Child Gets Sick Often
Stress and lack of sleep can wreak havoc on a child’s immune system. When overscheduled kids are exposed to stress for long periods of time, it weakens their defenses, which makes them more likely to get sick.
Getting sick every now and then is expected for young children, but when it becomes too commonplace, that is when you might want to step in and make some changes to reduce the demands on your child and allow them more time for non-stressful activities.
Tips to Prevent Overscheduling
Establish Ground Rules
Agree on some rules ahead of time. These rules can be things such as allowing only 2 sports per year, limiting activities to 3 days of the week, establishing a set time your child should be home every day, etc. Setting rules not only helps balance their activities, but will also help them become well-rounded, disciplined young adults.
Of course, school should always come first so you’ll want to make sure that educational pursuits are at or near the very top of the list. Next, sit down with your child and have him or her list out their remaining activities from most important to least. Work with them to come up with a reasonable list that you both agree on, then watch for tell-tale signs of overscheduling. If these signs arise, simply eliminate some of the activities at the bottom of the priorities list.
Know When to Say “No”
You might discover that your kids overscheduled themselves with more activities than they can handle. If your child is already doing a lot and asks to undertake another activity, you may need to say no or refer to the priorities list from the prior tip and drop one activity before they begin a new one.
Leave Room for Some Downtime
Regardless of age, everyone needs time to unwind, relax, and recharge. This is especially true for children since studies have shown that being bored allows them to let their imagination run free and explore their own passions.
In addition, allowing your child to have some downtime lets them decide for themselves how to use periods of unstructured time. Without this, they will struggle to learn how to manage their time later on in life, so don’t be afraid to give them the experience they need now, in order to improve the chances they’ll be successful later.