Kari pulls into the fast food restaurant’s drive-thru for the third time this week to get her and her three children dinner before she drives her youngest to baseball practice. She almost never has time to cook and meal for her family, anymore, between soccer and baseball practice for her two sons and dance and gymnastics for daughter. Kari works forty to fifty hours a week, plus her children have a hectic schedule. All three of her children love participating in all the activities they are doing, even if they are exhausted and stressed from their schedule. Kari doesn’t want to pull them out of anything because she knows it would break their heart and, besides it’s better than them watching TV all day, right?
Do you ever ask yourself, “With our busy schedule, how can I control our family stress level?”
First, you need to examine the reasons why your children participate in so many extra-curricular activities and what your motives are for choosing these activities and this schedule.
Parents fall into the over-scheduling trap for a variety of reasons. This first motive is the healthiest and the last is the most damaging:
- Parents want their children to use their time wisely, but accidently take on too much.
- Children want to do everything. Parents don’t want to disappoint them or hear endless nagging, so they let them.
- Parents keep children busy so they won’t get into trouble, instead of teaching children how to make planned responsible decisions to be “good” children.
- Some parents want their children to experience every opportunity-all at once- which is overwhelming.
- Now and then, parents expect their children to be super-achievers, whatever the cost.
To determine whether your family’s schedule needs scaled back ask, “Does my child want to do all these activities or do I want them to?” If children want to do everything, think “moderation” and remember that responsible parents do not give children everything they want.
How to Reduce the Amount of Activities and the Amount of Family Stress :
- Establish a policy of two activities per season.
- Rotate seasonal activities or reach a goal and then strive for another.
Setting limits on activities teaches children important skills and values that benefit them as adults. They learn how to budget their time and responsibilities and to handle disappointment. These children know how to set priorities and concentrate on doing their best at a few chosen activities. You and your children need to pace yourselves, instead of racing to do everything at once.
- Schedule quality family time that doesn’t include extra-curricular activities. This quality time may include:
- Family game night.
- Reading a book out loud together (not just during bedtime).
- Going to the playground/park.
It is important to limit the time your children spend in front of the TV or with electronics, but children need “down time” as much as adults do. They need to play and just be a kid — even teens. Will they get bored? Probably. But they need to learn how to use their imagination to creatively and responsibly come up with their own cure for boredom.
By engaging your children with family oriented activities it stimulates their brain cells (instead of withering them with activities, such as, watching TV or playing video games) and it lowers the family’s stress.
For more tips and solutions on reducing family stress, discover The Parent’s Toolshop®‘s unique Universal Blueprint® problem-solving system, get the 7 Keys to Parenting Success ebook. You will be less frustrated, respond more calmly and feel more confident in any parenting situation.
Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE is the author of the award-winning book, The Parent’s Toolshop and president of Parent’s Toolshop Consulting, where she oversees an international network of Toolshop® trainers. She has 30 years experience as a top-rated speaker and parenting expert to the media worldwide, including serving as the Co-Producer and Parenting Expert for the Emmy-nominated Ident-a-Kid television series. She has interviewed many parenting experts on her Parents Tool Talk radio show and is a parenting expert columnist. She has produced almost 100 multimedia resources, which are available at her award-winning website, www.ParentsToolshop.com.
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