By Dr. Stacey Maslow
Department of Pediatrics
Music lessons, dance class, soccer practice, gymnastics…these days many kids seem to have busier schedules than their parents. Although many children enjoy being busy, packing too many activities into one week can cause stress, lead to burnout, and have a detrimental effect on family life.
“Overscheduling problems usually happen with parents that have good intentions. Parents worry that their children will miss out if they are not signed up for as many activities as other children are,” explained Dr. Stacey Maslow of Reliant’s Department of Pediatrics. “Many parents are also fixated on constant self-improvement for their children in order to make them high achievers. Parents need to remember that all children require some downtime to relax, explore other interests, and enjoy themselves outside of structured group activities.”
Increasingly, pediatricians are noticing that children who are overbooked and overscheduled can become stressed and cranky, making family life difficult. Parents should be aware of the following warning signs that too many activities are taking a toll on their child:
- Acting tired and irritable
- Anxious and nervous behavior
- Poor attention span
- Constant headaches and stomach aches
- Worsening grades
While it’s good for kids to be active, develop specific talents, and learn to be part of a team, too many activities can take their toll. “It’s not uncommon for children to abandon once-favorite activities if they are pressured into doing them for too long,” remarked Dr. Maslow. “They simply get burned out and complain they are not fun anymore.”
That’s why it’s important for families to strike the right balance. Kids should be allowed to enjoy activities that interest them as long as they have adequate unscheduled time. All children need a little breathing room between school, homework and after-school activities.
Although there are no hard and fast rules, parents may want to avoid organized activities for children until they reach elementary school. At that time, parents should consider no more than one sport, one social activity (like scouting) and one artistic pursuit (such as a music, theatre or art class) at any one time during the school year. This should allow children enough unscheduled time to play with friends and siblings, develop some interests on their own, and engage in more family activities.
Most importantly, parents should avoid putting pressure on their children to engage in endless activities just because other families are doing it. “It’s not always an easy decision to make, but for some families having everyone present to eat around the dinner table together at night is more important than racing off to the next dance class or soccer practice,” commented Dr. Maslow. “Every family needs to decide what makes the most sense for them.”
About Stacey Maslow, MD
Dr. Maslow has been practicing medicine for 17 years. When asked why she became a doctor, Dr. Maslow explains, “As a small child I frequented urban areas while accompanying my grandmother on various immigration and health projects that were her passion. These experiences sparked my fascination with how city life effects people and their physical and emotional health. I decided at the age of 11 that I wanted to be a doctor because I...View profile View posts by this doctor