Spring is here. Summer vacation is around the corner. Let the scheduling begin!
Monday is soccer practice, Tuesday is dance practice, Saturday is the sleepover and soccer game, Sunday is the neighborhood bike ride, and so it goes. Trying to mesh times and activities of each family member can require a white board and full-time secretary.
What about free time? Is there time for the children to entertain themselves? As parents, we model for our children how to handle stress and how to balance time, though sometimes we need to listen to our children. Here are some statistics worth noting:
b Researchers from the University of Minnesota have found that there has been a decline of at least 12 hours per week in childrens free time (specifically outdoor activities). In the same time frame, there has been an increase in structured sports time and a five-fold increase in watching television (greater than three hours per day).
b There is a strong association between families eating meals together and academic success and psychological adjustment.
b Children ages 9 to 14 who have regular family dinners were found to eat more fruits and vegetables, less saturated fat, and fewer fried foods and sodas (i.e., more appropriate eating habits).
How do you know if youre overscheduling your child? Try these five criteria:
1. Assess your irritability quotient. Do you find yourself rushing from one activity to another? Do you feel like a chauffeur yelling, Move it, were going to be late! Do schedules have higher priority than daily events?
2. Evaluate off time. What does your child like to do when nothing is scheduled? Does he wander off to entertain himself with a game or hobby? When was the last time your child was bored? Did you know that a child may have trouble concentrating or sleeping if overscheduled?
3. Weigh the costs. Before an activity is scheduled, determine financial costs, travel time, emotional impact and loss of family time. What is the benefit, and is it worth it?
4. Set limits. Give your child a choice between activities. Agree that the child can participate in a certain number of activities per week. Recognize that the number of activities for each child means preparation and drive time, as well. For some families, one activity per child, per week is sufficient.
5. Why are you doing this? Honestly, who is the recognition for? Do you want your child to grow? Are you the one who needs camaraderie with other adults?
Consider balancing scheduled activities with family time:
b Set aside a family night on your calendar. No one can schedule anything on family night and no TV. Make a special meal, play a game, tell stories or do anything that creates cohesiveness among family members.
b Commit to eating dinner together at least three to five times a week, preferably with TV turned off.
b Schedule goof-off time. Give children (and yourself) the opportunity to play, create and imagine.
b Relax in nature.
Here are some guidelines regarding how much a child can handle:
b 3 to 5 years old: One or two activities per school semester or summer.
b 6 to 8 years old: Two or three activities per school semester or summer.
b 9 to 12 years old: Three or four activities per school semester or summer.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 247-4355. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.