One of my favorite things in life is watching my grandson play. He doesn’t need toys, although he does like them. He sometimes picks up a stick and one moment it’s an airplane. Then it becomes a car, then a train, then a monster from the lagoon. What amazes me about this is his creativity and delight as he plays.
I have thought a lot about the way he plays. In order for a child to be able to play like this and be inventive, he needs unscheduled time. But many parents do not give their children time to just do nothing. Every minute is filled with things to do and places to go. Most families overschedule children to the point that they have no time to be creative and entertain themselves.
If you have children in middle or upper school, consider some of the ramifications of overscheduling your child’s day. Families can become so busy, they do not even have time to sit down together at dinner. This is important bonding time and allows kids time to tell parents how things are going for them at school. Students need an hour or two each night to complete their homework. If their schedule is too crowded, their schoolwork will suffer.
They also need time to relax—to wind down from their stressful day at school. High-stakes testing and raised expectations add a huge level of stress into students’ lives. And it is important to exercise some every day, especially during adolescence when children are establishing healthy habits for a lifetime. Lastly, adolescents need to get plenty of sleep to be healthy and do well in school.
As the new school year begins, take a few minutes to think through your child’s weekly schedule. Does she have enough time for all of these important things—time with family, homework, relaxation, exercise, and sleep—every day? If not, it’s time to sit down with her to discuss what is important to hold on to and what can be let go. “Finding Balance for Busy Families” offers helpful suggestions for how to prevent having an overscheduled child and family.