Unfortunately, much as parents want to be proud of their little kids’ efforts, these little ones are being overburdened with a range of activities taking up their play time each day. In fact, this concept has been discussed in child psychologist David Elkind’s best-seller, The Hurried Child. In this book, Elkind says that parents find it increasingly difficult to find a fine balance between parents throwing open as many opportunities to their children as possible to the extent of overburdening them.
So how much is too much? At what point should parents stop and consider that perhaps they are overburdening their kids with activities? Parents who have an eye on Ivy League colleges want to prepare their kids for these hallowed institutions almost right from the crib, so to speak. They put pressure on their kids to learn a varied number of sports, musical instruments and languages which can impress any Admissions Director.
What’s alarming is that parents think that their kids are smart enough to absorb the nuts and bolts of as many activities as they are introduced to. So, they increase the number of activities for their kids, until the child groans at their busy schedule that leaves them with no time for play. It’s not an easy situation for parents to consider. After all, a full schedule for kids is nerve-wracking for both parents and kids. Here are the positives and negatives of the situation:
- By being involved in a number of activities, kids can meet, learn from, work with and enjoy being with multi-faceted people.
- Children learn new skills that can help with learning in the classroom.
- By being exposed to extracurricular activities, kids can learn vital life skills, like responsibility, perseverance, team-building, etc.
- Learning varied activities early in life can show kids the path to an offbeat career.
- Children who aren’t successful in the classroom can excel in extracurricular activities that are confidence-building.
- When children rush from one activity to another, the learning of each activity is sometimes not entirely gained. These things require time to understand, try out and practice.
- By allowing kids to have their own free time, children can build their store of imagination, innovation and creativity–gifts that are not possible in an overcrowded day.
- Some parents overrate their children’s abilities and so start them off early in life in a particular direction. They believe that their kids will be a champion on the sports field or in any other stream. However, this is no reason to burden children if only to realize the formers’ dreams.
- If your child suffers from ill-health due to a busy schedule of activities and school, it’s time to slow down. If he or she is ill occasionally, you may disregard it as something normal, but if they fall ill recurrently, you need to re-evaluate your child’s schedule and tweak it appropriately. Over time, their quota of sleep, quantum of nutrition and the desired physical activity are essential for their mental and physical growth and development.
Symptoms of kids overburdened with several activities: Here are a few symptoms displayed by children who can’t cope with the burden of activities and a full academic calendar:
- Listlessness: Nothing that interested your child earlier does now. The little one feels dull and reluctant about participating in the activities for which he or she has enrolled.
- Lack of energy: Your son or daughter feels lethargic and lacks energy every now and then. He or she may complain of headaches and stomach aches and often miss meals.
- Studies suffer: You begin to get a lot of complaints from your child’s teachers that his or her homework isn’t done. The child’s grades may also go downhill.
So, how do schools cope with this? When kids are in lower standards, they can cope with their extracurricular activities and the school load, but as they grow older and their academic load increases, it’s time to say goodbye to the activities. Schools, these days, have regular workshops for students and teachers where both are counselled to address such growing concerns.
According to mental health experts, overburdening children with extracurricular activities could have negative impacts on them which would be difficult to deal with. An overdose of activities builds up stress among children who could well grow up to be hyper individuals and highly competitive. They will then be Type A personalities, who are always anxious, angry and negative.
Parents, therefore, must feel the need to give their kids some amount of free time each day. Since kids learn a lot by being in the outdoors with kids their age, they should be sent to the nearby park to play with them. A couple of activities and free time would be an ideal combination for average kids.
Expert feel that when parents block kids’ time with activities, they kill the child’s imagination. If activities are unstructured, the child’s brain development is much better. Also, if kids play outdoor games that are not goal-oriented, they can think better and take better decisions.
Tips for parents:
- As parents, you may have high expectations of your child, but save the criticism for later. Be supportive of your child.
- Cut down your child’s activities if he or she feels stressed out. Nothing is worth the fatigue.
- When your child communicates his fatigue to you, listen to the little one and make changes instantly. If the child’s schedule of activities cuts into their sleep or diet, reduce the number of activities.
- Don’t introduce them to many activities at the cost of family time. While your child learns to excel outside the home, he or she must also build bonds at home.
- It’s also well worth introducing your child to people of character from whom the little one can learn how to build strong relations, organize their lives and their time, among other things.
- Let your child decide what he or she wants to do. What does the child like to do? Let the little one choose and participate in the activities of his or her choice.