Raising a well-rounded child is a goal for many parents. And you can’t do that without exposing them to different activities. But experts say there are warning signs to indicate if your kids are “overscheduled.”
“I like soccer and orchestra,” said Violette McKnight, standing outside a sporting goods store with her family.
Her brother Owen plays soccer, too.
But each of them plays a different instrument – one in the band and the other in a youth orchestra.
Their Mom Julie Barnes McKnight said her rule of thumb when it comes to scheduling their after-school activities is simple.
“Let them do the scheduling,” she chuckled. “So, they overschedule me.”
Many parents can relate.
And getting your child’s feedback is key.
But how do you know when to say when?
"Well-rounded is great until it isn't,” said Kim Spampinato – a licensed professional counselor in Troy for Great Lakes Psychology Group.
"When a child's behavior changes, it's kind of like an indicator light that goes on on your dash board,” she added.
The warning sign for parents is a pattern of change in a child's mood or behavior in one of three areas in their life:
For example, if a child is no longer hanging out with their closest friends or easily irritated by things that never previously bugged them or experiencing a drop in grades, those could be warning signs.
Remember, there are only so many hours in a day.
"If a child can sleep 9-to-10 hours a day and has room and space for nourishment, sleep, connection, and activity -- those are what I call the non-negotiables. That has to happen in a child's life in order for them to prosper and flourish,” said Spampinato.
After parents add up all the hours for the non-negotiable activities kids must do, then they should sit down with the child to see what negotiable and optional activities they might do.
TOOLS PARENTS CAN USE
Spampinato recommends parents ask their kids three questions -- and make a list of the answers:
What do you love to do?
What do you like to do?
What would you tolerate?
"And you'll start to see as a parent right before your eyes, it's kind of like something emerges where you think you know your child…but there isn't a time that I haven't seen a parent learn something new about their child,” Spampinato explained.
Take that information to schedule after-school activities that will help your child thrive.
ARE YOUR KIDS ACTIVITIES FOR THEM...OR FOR YOU?
Kim Spampinato says make sure you’re scheduling your children for the right reasons.
Don’t sign up your child for an activity just to relive your glory years.
Don’t schedule them for a rec league just because it’ll be fun for you socially.
Don’t plan activities based on where you think the child should be in 12 years.
And – believe it or not – schedule an hour here and there with NOTHING for your child to do.
That’s actually a good thing. Why?
Spampinato said it gives the child time to do something that comes to them naturally, organically – whether it’s using their imagination or being creative in how they play.
That’s important for development as well.
You can reach Kim Spampinato at Great Lakes Psychology Group.
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