We all need reminders of the mental health dangers of an overstuffed school schedule, as we emerge from the pandemic. Many parents believe kids must be involved in numerous extracurricular activities to be successful adults. Perhaps we believe this abundance of activities will foster a sense of pride and accomplishment. But is this excessive involvement in activities doing more harm than good?
According to a study published in the journal “Sport, Education, and Society,” the social demands of an extracurricular-heavy schedule place an unprecedented strain on families. They potentially harm children’s development and well-being. The researchers interviewed fifty families of primary-aged children and found that 88% of the kids were involved in extracurricular activities four to five days a week. These activities were the central focus of family life, especially in households with more than one child. As a consequence, families were spending less quality time together and children were exhausted.
The researchers were quick to warn parents of the potential negative impact of an overstuffed school schedule: “Raising awareness of this issue can help those parents who feel under pressure to invest in their children’s organized activities, and are concerned with the impact of such activities on their family, to have the confidence to plan a less hectic schedule for their children.”
Helping Your Child Find a Balance
In order for extracurricular activities to do more good than harm, parents have to make sure family time takes precedence. Here are some ways you can help your child find a balance:
Let Kids be Kids:
Make sure there is enough unstructured time for kids to express themselves in creative ways. This freedom allows children time for the joy of self-discovery. Adult-organized activities can restrict this natural inclination. In addition, learning how to manage boredom is an important life skill to learn for increased mental health.
Recognize the Importance of Family Time:
As I mentioned, the study found that too many kid activities lead to a major strain on family time. Other studies have shown the importance of family bonds to a child’s development and well-being. While you may initially feel hesitant in taking your child out of some of their activities, just remember the benefits of spending more time as a family and off technology.
Talk to Your Child:
Don’t decide which activities stay and which go without first getting input from your child. He or she should be able to help decide the activities that bring them the most benefits and joy.
Nowadays, kids and adults can find themselves juggling way too many responsibilities. It’s important for all of us to slow down, relax, and spend as much time as we can as a family. This is one thing we learned from the Covid-19 pandemic.
If you’re looking for an expert to help your family come together again, please reach out to me today. I offer a free, 20-minute phone consultation to see if I am the right therapist for you or your family.
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