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Can we overschedule our kids?  You bet we can and unfortunately a lot of us are doing it already.  Although most of us act with the best of intentions, it’s easy to get caught up when planning extracurricular activities.  The downfall, however, is that too many structured activities at one time can have a negative effect on our children’s physical and emotional well being.  Children that are overscheduled can eventually show signs of stress, irritability, and exhaustion, and end up with poor grades and mood swings.  So it’s no surprise that unstructured time is also important.  Not only does it encourage kids to pursue their own interests, but it can teach them about self-expression and time management.  Instead of scheduling children with structured activities everyday of the week, we should find a healthy balance that gives them exposure to both structured and unstructured activities on a regular basis.

We all know that extracurricular activities important, but why?  Because they improve a child’s self-esteem, confidence, academic performance, and discipline.  Statistically, kids who participate in extracurricular activities are more likely to go to college and are less likely to use drugs or alcohol.  This is where some of us can go a little crazy and think that doubling or tripling extracurricular activities will somehow double or triple our child’s chance of success.  It won’t, but instead it may lead to all the negatives: exhaustion, moodiness, stress and eventual poor performance or lack of motivation.  In other words, it’s our kid’s way of saying it’s too much.  Instead, we should focus on one or two activities for our children to pursue and benefit from.

Remember extracurricular activities shouldn’t be overwhelming.  We want our kids to love their activities and enjoy the benefits that come with them.  When kids are pushed and forced to participate in activities, the activity become less enjoyable and more of a chore.  Instead, we need to keep it fun while encouraging their participation and success.  We need to have high expectations with low criticism.  We want our kids to aim high, but we must remember to be supportive and not hurtful of their effort.

One of the best ways to prevent over scheduling is to talk openly with our kids and ask them honestly how they feel about the extracurricular activities in their lives.  Given the opportunity, most kids will share which activities they truly enjoy and which ones are not enjoyable or leave them feeling drained, forced, and/or stressed.

Finally, remember the importance of family and downtime. With school, homework, sports and other extracurricular activities, kids lives (and ours too) are busier than ever and we could all use some unstructured time to rest and recharge. Sometimes, some good old-fashioned family time may be just what the doctor ordered.

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