Back To School – How To Avoid Over Scheduling Your Kid

Here is an article from Kelly-Jane Carter at USA Today on how to avoid over scheduling your kid as a new school year begins

So you’ve agreed to let your child play hockey, run cross-country, join the swim team, learn piano, star in the school play, take voice lessons, join robotics club, take SAT prep, volunteer at the food pantry, volunteer at the animal shelter, work part-time, keep up with National Honor Society and continue in Scouting.

Too much?

Yeah, probably.

Unless your family somehow manages to squeeze 100 hours into every day, there is a physical and mental limit to what you can do.

But where to draw the line? Always tricky.

As back-to-school season approaches, here are some other things parents should keep in mind:

Time and money

Nobody has unlimited time, and hardly anybody has an endless supply of money. You have to pick and choose.

“I’m not a big fan of travel teams because they’re often about getting parents to fork over a few thousand dollars and travel to other states every weekend,” said Al Lupiano, a longtime coach of youth soccer and baseball in Middlesex County. “The parents are miserable and the kids aren’t having fun.”

“It’s a good idea to start with low-stakes, low-pressure activities,” said Stephanie Rahill, a faculty member the graduate school psychology program at Georgian Court University in Lakewood.

In other words, if your child watches the Olympics and says she’d like to learn how to skate, hold off on that custom-made figure skating outfit. Try bringing her to the rink a few times to see if she likes being on the ice. Then see if she can still do all her homework and handle skating lessons.

Nanci Bergman, mom to 9-year-old Dalton and CEO of ACCENT, says prioritized to-do lists help her stay on task.

Delusions

“You do get the parents who are living through their children, and they push their kids into time-consuming leagues in hopes of them being the next Derek Jeter,” said Lupiano.”

“It’s not about what the parents want,” Rahill said. “Don’t put them on a sports team in hopes of getting them into a certain school or getting a scholarship.”

Enthusiasm

“Is your kid saying, “Do I have to go?”” Rahill said. “That’s a clear sign the activity is not right for them. Certain kids need more downtime, or feel more pressure about activities. How much stress do they feel about competition?

“Not all kids are going to go for a team,” Rahill added. “You want to have them involved in something they have interest in, something that will teach them perseverance and give them a sense of accomplishment.

“If your child is more into solitary activities, like piano,” Rahill said, “then you want to make sure that their free play involves something social, so they get that balance. Either way, it’s still important to have free play, without adult supervision, because it increases creativity and social problem-solving.”

“There is so much emphasis on “you need to choose at 4 and know what you want to do,” said June Rizza, a coach and mother of two. “That’s great if you do know, but that’s not the norm. I found running in my late 30s. I mean, I always liked running, but I didn’t know until then that I would want to pursue it the way I do now.

“Kids know what they can handle,” Rizza said. “With my own kids, I take my cues from them, whether it’s physical cues like a sleeping issue, or if we’re at a point where something else is lacking or is being detrimental, then we stop. As a coach, we want to know if it’s too much. We don’t want to push them.”

“We are currently living through a time when being overscheduled and overcommitted is part of our culture,” said Monmouth University’s Tracy Mulvaney, by email.

Mulvaney, assistant dean of the School of Education, added that students in middle and high school should choose their own activities, to ensure enthusiasm and make it “less of a chore.”

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