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Activity Overload: How much is too much?

It's good to keep kids busy, but finding the balance is important.

I’ve always made sure that my kids are involved in activities in and outside of school. It’s good for them to stay busy and have a focus outside of academics.

When I was growing up, the rule of the house was that I had to be involved in at least two interests. For me this was easy. I was active in community service organizations, my church youth group, debate team, and even started a poetry club. Over the years I took different forms of dance and even tried karate.  I was never at a loss for something to do, as there was always an event to participate in.

Child psychologists, teachers and parents all agree that it’s important to get your child involved with extra-curricular activities. By exposing our kids to various clubs, sports and organizations, we hope they will mature into well-rounded individuals. It is also recognized that many colleges prefer students who show continued involvement in multiple activities over students with higher grade point averages but who have little or no involvement in such.

These activities can also boost a child’s self-esteem, especially those falling short in school. But while it’s important to keep kids active, it is equally important to find the right balance. It’s key to recognize when your child is taking on too much as we all need some down time too. 

How do we know when our kids are doing too much?  Here are a few tell tale signs that your child may be overloaded with extra curricular activities: 

Fatigue. Your child is tired all the time. They may complain they are exhausted and have no energy to do anything, or you may find them wanting to nap in between activities or even ask to skip them. Kids can get burned out too! You may even see tearful bouts of crying. Think about how you feel when your plate is too full. 

Inability to Focus. Sometimes by throwing too many obligations on our kids, they lose the ability to focus on the activity at hand because they are spreading themselves too thin. They may become overwhelmed, fidgety, and stressed as they think about what they need to do next. 

Attitude.  Grouchiness and a sharp tongue can come as a result of your child feeling stressed. Take note of how often this occurs and pay attention to when your child’s mood seems to change. Is it right before a sports game or practice? 

Slipping Grades. Your child’s grades taking the heat with incomplete assignments or poor test grades. Perhaps your child’s schedule is so crammed there is not enough time for them to study sufficiently or complete tasks to their potential. 

Loss of Interest. Your child does not have the same enthusiasm for his activities as they once used to. They may ask to skip practices or games or want to sit out on the sidelines. You may notice them not participating with their normal energy as well as a loss/increase in appetite. 

You are unable to get them where they need to go. If you rely on carpools to get your child to where they need to be, that should be a sign that perhaps their schedule is too full. If you can’t accommodate their hectic schedule, how can you expect them to? 

Being overwhelmed can cause unnecessary stress and cause a child to not enjoy the activities they are taking part in altogether. Parents should help their child prioritize what is crucial for their personal and academic development and ensure there a good balance that allows them to flourish and excel. Sometimes it’s best to focus on one or two activities to see how your child can manage to avoid over committing. 

I remember my school days and have many fond memories of all the opportunities I was able to partake in. Giving back to the community at a young age through my years involved with Builder’s Club and Key Club, always made me feel like I was contributing to changing lives for the better. Being involved in my church youth group flourished friendships I’ll have for life. Taking dance classes challenged me and gave me a sense of accomplishment. Being able to look back as an adult, I realize the positive impact on my life by choosing to get involved.   

Let your child dabble in different things to find their true interests will help cultivate who they will become. Finding the right balance will ensure they can ensure themselves. 

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