Over Scheduling Kids May Cause More Harm Than Good

It’s not uncommon to see a well-marked kitchen calendar of your kids’ scheduled events that is just as crammed as many executives of a company. Between scouts, little league, music lessons, and dance recitals, on top of homework, many kids are overwhelmed with their schedules because of overzealous parents who think the more activities their child does the greater the likelihood of creating a trophy kid. While your kids’ extracurricular involvement can have many benefits, too many time commitments may cause harm to mental health and a decrease interest in the activities.

Studies show that kids may need a little more leeway with their free time instead of having their days packed with lessons, sports and structured activities. Being involved in activities and learning to be part of a team can be positive for a child’s self-esteem, but if kids are over scheduled, it can actually end up causing detriment instead. When trying to cram it all in day after day, high stress can result.

Dr. Caroline Martinez, a developmental pediatrician and behavioral specialist at the Kravis Children’s Hospital at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan, explained that although it’s beneficial for kids to have a broad range of thinking skills, such as problem-solving, decision-making and regulating their thoughts and actions; those skills may not just be developed in a structured setting. Martinez explained in a statement with CBS News that having less structured time allows kids to enhance their executive function and development skills.

stressed out child

A Balanced Schedule is Key

It’s more and more common for parents to schedule their children in a wide range of activities to keep them busy and engaged, but it’s important to offer children a balance between that structured time and some free time.

A study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology says as kids develop broader life skills, it may be healthier for them to have some time when they’re not working toward some goal.

family time

The fact of the matter is, kids don’t have enough down time to unwind and be kids. There’s no argument that these activities are helpful, but the concern is that young children may be getting too much of a good thing. Parents feel that because they’re busy with their own hectic schedules, they need to keep their children occupied, but the reality is children don’t need to be in any organized activity before age 6 or 7.

Often, the over-scheduling of structured activities is more the result of parental stress and anxiety – the cost of the activities, all the running around and time it takes to take the kids to/from the activities. Not to mention, if you have more than one child, coordinating conflicting schedules with both children’s activities can cause parental stress as well.

Better Use of Free Time

Let your kids be kids and you be the parent. Maybe instead of chauffeuring the kids off to practices and lessons every day, play with them and have family dinners together or have a “mommy/daddy and me day.” When too much of a child’s day is taken up by homework and sport practice, they miss out on important family bonding time, which could lead to a weakening of family relationships.

Work to find a balance in your kids’ schedules. Let them choose activities that interest them while still reserving some down time. More importantly, don’t let the pressure get to you, and don’t pass on the pressure to them.

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