Safeguard Family Time – Protect Your Kids from Over-Scheduling
Ask the Experts by Mary Beth Garvey, LMSW
Q: How can I safeguard family time and protect my kids from over scheduling?
A: There seems to be increasing pressure for parents to provide children with multiple activities.
Well intentioned parents are motivated to expose their children to a broad spectrum of experiences to help prepare them for academic, athletic and extracurricular success.
As childhood schedules become more frantic, however, these opportunities can come at a cost. One of the most significant is the disintegration of family time. Nothing shapes a child’s life more than the family experience. Parents teach their children what to love and value, expectations regarding their behavior, and how they are perceived and experienced by others. Families need to protect themselves from excessive demands in order to teach these lessons.
The cultural message is “the more activities, the better.” Yet children who are shuttled from one activity to the next often have only a superficial immersion in an activity. Multiple activities can lead to boredom and lack of passion. In an increasingly complex world, most kids need more time with an engaged adult than an additional activity. Studies indicate that families are spending less time interacting, while kids are reporting they would like to have more time with their parents.
It is important to prepare our children for success but children need time and space for refueling, reflection and creating. They need attention, affection, guidance, discipline and conversation. Children need laughter and playtime. And they need a responsible, caring adult to know and love them intimately and to be actively engaged in the development of their character and morals.
Success, self-regard, growth – all can be best developed in the context of family. While we have the responsibility to connect our children to opportunities in the broader community, we would also be well served by making our choices in a mindful, selective manner.
Ways to Protect Family Time
- Limit activities of family members. Have one day a week when nothing is scheduled, maintain regular mealtimes, or institute family meetings or game night.
- Create family rituals which protect time. Read aloud together, have nightly bedtime conversations, make meals as a family, or attend religious services.
- Maintain family routines. The repetitive nature of routines provides children comfort, predictability and a sense of control.
- Turn off the TV, the computer and cell phones.
- Work together, rather than dividing chores, so that children can contribute to communal work and feel genuinely useful.
- Celebrate together and develop traditions that support family relationships.
Mary Beth Garvey, LMSW, is a Clinical Therapist who works with children, adolescents and adults. She can be reached at 313.408.2180. Garvey is a member of The Family Center's Association of Professionals.
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