How to Keep Your Child’s Schedule in Balance
Posted 2/28/2017 by UHBlog
How much is too much when it comes to your child's activities?
If you want to keep your child's – and your – schedule in balance, pediatrician
Anandhi Gunder, MD, MPH recommends selecting activities that meet one or all of these three considerations:
- Will your child learn new skills?
- Does the activity help build self-esteem?
- Will your child meet and make new friends?
But, if you enroll your child in extracurricular activities because the neighbor's kid down the street is participating, you may want to rethink what your child is doing.
“For some parents, it's almost like a competition with the parents down the street,” Dr. Gunder says. “They treat it like they are scheduling the activity for themselves rather than their child. Instead, parents should think of quality over quantity when it comes to their child's activities.”
It's easy for kids to become overextended and if their schoolwork slips, that's not good.
“When I talk to my patients, I always ask them about the things that they're involved in,” she says. “If they list six or seven things that they're doing, I say, 'Wow, how do you find time to eat, sleep or go to school?' Then I turn to their parents and say, 'You must be driving them around a lot.' I always say this in a jovial manner, but what I'm trying to impress upon them is that there are other options.”
To keep activities from becoming out of whack, Dr. Gunder suggests you:
Take into account the child's age. “With younger children (preschool or pre-kindergarten), they don't know what opportunities are out there or what it is they like,” she says. “With younger kids, allow them to pick between two activities that are also feasible for you to do. Offer them those options – for instance, choosing between soccer and basketball or between dance and gymnastics – so they have a choice in the matter.”
As your child matures, only then should you allow them to do more than one activity per season, Dr. Gunder says.
“I think once your child has the hang of the basics of school – studying and homework – and they're doing well, then if you want to allow them to do more, that's okay," she says.
Make sure the activity is fun. No matter what your child's age, make sure they enjoy whatever extracurricular activities they're doing – separately and in total. Otherwise, it's best to give something up.
If they lack motivation or interest, become grumpy or seem stressed about their performance, Dr. Gunder says those are signs they may be stretched too thin.
“It's really okay for your child to lounge around, sit on the couch and chitchat with you or read a book," she says. “It's great for them to be a little bored. That leads to them doing something creative, like coloring a picture, reading a book or building Legos. It lets them unplug and get off the grid.”
Be insightful. Some parents treat their child's sports performance like it's the major leagues. It's not. If you're overly anxious about how well your child is doing, it's best to scale back.
“Parents should be realistic about their child, their abilities and activities,” Dr. Gunder says. “When the parents are more into it than the kids are, this might be a sign to slow down.”
Similarly, be wary of allowing your high school-aged child to do activities simply for the sake of building a “college resume.”
“That's when that competition comes in,” she says. “My advice to teenagers is to make sure you like the things that you're doing and they aren't just something you're checking off the list.”
Anandhi Gunder, MD, MPH is a pediatrician at University Hospitals Rainbow Euclid Pediatrics. You can request an appointment with Dr. Gunder or any other doctor online.