As summer ends and school begins, I believe that many moms start feeling stressed and anxious. They are anticipating the hectic pace of studies and extracurricular activities. And rightly so. American families over-schedule their children. Why? Because we want our children to have access to every opportunity from music lessons to sports practice to religious meetings to Scouts. We watch the Olympics and see what sacrifices these parents have made so that their children would “make it” and so we feel guilty if we don’t do the same.
We also feel that if we aren’t busy are lives aren’t productive enough. But what does God want us to do with our time and schedules?
I believe that any decision we make should come before the Lord in prayer first and then we need to evaluate and plan the time that God has given us. Ask your children what type of activities they want? Some families have a two-activity limit. But if your child is exceptional in a sport or instrument, they may be required to participate more than what is normal so you may have to reduce his allotment to one activity. Again, only God knows what is best for you and your family.
- 1. Sit down with your husband and then your children and discuss what activities they want and may do. Some families let each child pick one extracurricular activity at a time and they have to stick with it for a set time.
- 2. Explain that some activities are very costly and they may need to help with the costs (this would be for teens that could do small jobs as baby-sit or mow lawns).
3. Understand that as a result of doing too much, your children may become burnt out and less creative.
4. And especially, Mom’s will become exhausted with all the time on the road and rushing to put together meals.
5. Family time will suffer if the members are going off in many different directions. Some crazy days are understandable, but the normal day should have a family meal, time for homework and time for kids to just hang out, read a book, time to talk with you and relax.
6. Families may be together in the car as they rush from one activity to another but building good relationships and memories won’t happen in that environment daily.
7. Keep an eye on the calendar to ensure that a certain number of hours are spent at home and with the family. Then perhaps, every quarter sit down and evaluate your activities and try to reduce them.
8. If your children are close in age, perhaps they could do an activity together so that you aren’t driving to two different places.
9. Remember that children spell love, t.i.m.e. They want to be with us and the best thing we can give them is undivided attention. The nights you are home together, use that time together, not in front of the TV, but doing things together.
10. Quality of life really does suffer when we try to do everything. Balance is a key for how we should structure our time…and our lives.
“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16
And remember moms, that:
“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
In the Dallas Morning News, one of the featured columnists is Dr. Sue Hubbard. One of her article titles was: “Why are we raising our children to be anxious?” She believes it is due to our society as a whole; we are on the fast track to creating the next generation of “stressed out” adults. She believes that parents are setting the bar too high, too early. Yes, some worry is normal; how are they doing in school, are they making new friends, etc. But when the little worry becomes constant anxiety, then it’s gotten out of hand.
She continued by saying, “Most of my referrals are no longer to the orthopedic surgeons for broken bones, but rather to psychologists and psychiatrists who help children and adolescents deal with anxiety. I have seen recent articles about the fact that there are not enough pediatric psychiatrists to care for the needs of the pediatric population. I don’t know the answers, but I do think that we can change things by allowing a little downtime with family and friends, rather than lessons, tutors and Kumon math for 3-year-olds. We should spend more time talking face-to-face and less time on computers and phones. And we should listen to our children rather than have them watch videos on the way to school or while out at dinner with the family.
“We have to start trying something different, because what I am seeing now is not the ‘happy-go-lucky’ children of years gone by.” I couldn’t have said it any better.
Over scheduling seems to be the right thing to do for many parents because we live in such a driven culture. However, the side effects to this are disturbing. Physicians are seeing a rise in overuse injuries in younger kids, and mental health professionals are reporting an increase in anxiety at earlier ages (as we saw above).
When you take your child for his annual check-up, you may want to talk to your pediatrician about how he thinks your child is doing with his activities.
You may also want to encourage your teen to get outside more. Modern teenagers spend more time indoors in comparison to previous generations. A recent study suggests a lack of natural light might be playing havoc with their natural body clocks. Exposure to light in the morning is crucial to the teenager’s natural body clock. And you may also have to encourage your teen to get off the computer and take a walk or if he has too much homework, to go outside with his computer to work.