When Enough is Enough: Balancing Your Child’s Extracurriculars

Between sports programs, scout meetings, music lessons, and art classes, our children have fuller schedules than we ever did at their age — and that’s not even including play dates and homework.

So why do we keep our kids so busy with extracurriculars? When our children truly love an activity, we want to help nurture that passion. Alternatively, we may want to expand their horizons or expose them to all that the world has to offer (or to all that we were never exposed to as kids). We also may feel pressure to help our kids excel or stand out in an ever more competitive world.

Whatever reason we have for enrolling our children in extracurricular activities, pursuing them can sometimes result in kids who feel overburdened and burnt-out. So how can you tell if your child has reached his or her max? And how do you know where to draw the line?

How to balance your child’s extracurriculars

Determine which activities your child truly seems to enjoy…
What activities does your child go to and leave from with a smile? For which activities is your child always ready on time? What does he or she continually complain about? Which activities seem to energize and which seem to deplete? Observe your child’s words AND behaviors.

… and which activities are simply important to you.
Do you find yourself secretly (or not so secretly) rooting for your child to be interested in certain activities? Do you find yourself doing a lot of convincing regarding a certain activity or feeling an extra connection to your child because of his or her involvement in a certain activity? Do you believe that certain activities are in your child’s best interest, either now or in the future?

Talk to your child.
Have a conversation about your observations, and seek out your child’s opinions. Determine together which activities are the priorities based on interests and goals. Remember that while developing a well-rounded base of hobbies is a wonderful goal for your child’s personal and educational development, it is also not necessary that your child enjoy or pursue every opportunity that presents itself.

Pare down the list.
Now it’s time to make some decisions. You can help balance your child’s extracurriculars in variety of ways, from choosing only one sport per season to spending only a certain number of days each week on after-school activities. Make sure that time is reserved for homework, as well as general unstructured “down time” at home since this is when children truly relax and rejuvenate.

Monitor, evaluate, and readjust.
Once you restructure your child’s extracurricular activities, monitor his or her mood, stress, and enjoyment. Check-in with your child frequently to evaluate this new schedule and adjust accordingly, if necessary.

Finally, if you find yourself hoping to boost your child’s chances at “success” down the road by overloading their schedule with extracurriculars, remember that success is not built on the quantity of activities pursued. Rather, it’s developed through the exploration of true interests and passions that children will want to continue to nourish as they grow up.

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