Ask the Experts by Susan Fell
Q: I feel like my kids are over-scheduled, even in the summer, but when they have downtime, all they want to do is be on their devices or playing video games, which I like to avoid as much as possible. How can I have the best of both – an active schedule with appropriate, quality “down-time”?
A: As parents, we want the best for our children, but we sometimes forget to teach them how balance and healthy stress management play into a successful life.
Our society does not promote or reward laziness. Efficiency, expertise and over-involvement are highly promoted. We expect much from ourselves and our children; it’s easy to fall into the comparison trap and feel pressure to overextend by signing up for multiple activities, teams, clubs, volunteering, etc.
The truth is that quality time cannot exist with a quantity of time.
As our children grow they begin to experiment with ways to balance fun and work, while becoming increasingly independent. Learning to balance social and academic pressures, with busy schedules, is a challenging but necessary life skill. They will look to parents for guidance and encouragement. Listed below are ways parents can help their children achieve a healthy balance in a variety of ways:
- When considering activities, discuss time commitments, costs and requirements of each.
- Encourage your children to prioritize their choices and set limits on the number they participate in.
- Discourage comparing themselves to peers or siblings. Individual ability to manage multiple activities differs from person to person.
- Create a family calendar.
- Hold weekly family meetings to improve communication and opportunities for decision-making and activity planning.
Video games and other technology can be used in healthy ways to reduce stress and for enjoyment, however like all other activities time on devices should be used in moderation. Parents can help children schedule appropriate time for physical activity, family, friends, schoolwork and for use of technology.
Recognizing stress and making adjustments in our hectic lives is important and can be critical to lifelong emotional and physical health. If your children complain that they are overextended or stressed, listen. Allow them to change or reduce activities when they need to, even if you believe they have potential.
They may not notice when they are experiencing overload. Watch for signs of stress (irritability, changes in sleep or eating habits, repeated illness, lower grades, etc.) and make appropriate changes.
Model health levels of work, recreation, family and community involvement yourself. Remember, success should not only be measured by how much you do, but by how happy you are doing it. Teach your children the same.
Susan Fell, CSW, has served students at Brownell and Parcells Middle Schools in the Grosse Pointe School District as a school social worker for the past 19 years. She has two grown children who are both teachers and is a new grandmother. Grosse Pointe Public School District is a member of the Family Center’s Association of Professionals.