So Many Choices, So little time. As parents, many of us find it difficult to balance our children’s activities. How do such small people have such big social lives? As we gear up for fall and winter with many sign up dates looming, how do we help our children make smart choices that keep them active and keep us sane.
As a mother of four children, I know it can be crazy,. Although it is great to be busy and for many “too Busy”” is a badge of honor, it is also exhausting. last winter in my household, I had a daughter taking ballet, swimming lessons and skating, two other daughters taking swimming and dance, a son playing soccer and myself curling, playing hockey and soccer. Plus we went skiing as a family every second weekend. Do we love it all? Yes! Was I exhausted? Yes! Do we need to change it? Yes.
It may seem radical but occasionally we have to say NO. One year when my son was playing hockey and indoor soccer and taking guitar lessons, I received this advice from a fellow hockey Mom,: I let them play one sport and do one musical/art activity per season. I feel that gives them a rounded and balanced life and also gives them a sane parent”, she stated.
Now….a rounded and balanced life sounds great in theory. A few years back one of my curlting team mates was concerned about her daughter’s inability to fall asleep. Liz mentioned that her daughter would go to bed and then lay in bed awake for several hours. Trying to rectify the problem and thinking it was due to insufficient physical activity, she enrolled her daughter in dance class. When this did not work, they sought the help of a psychologist, who looked at the family’s life which included both parents working, swim club twice a week for all the kids, figure skating for one sibling, curling for Mom, hockey for Dad and downhill skiing for everyone each weekend. The diagnosis was simple: too busy! Although the child herself was only in a few activities, she had to attend the sibling’s activities and needed more downtime. But is a balanced and rounded family life even possible, given today’s endless options and pressure?
Janet Desautels, the creator of One Heart Unlimited Personal Development, who delivers workshops designed to help harried but well-meaning parents gain balance for themselves and their families. Janet laughingly says, My children are my best teachers of life balance-they always show me where I can make improvements. (www.oneheartunlimited.com)
The overactive family lifestyle is being called hyper-parenting by psychiartrist Dr. Allen Rosenfeld in his book The Overscheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap. In his book he states that childhood is for prepraration: it is not a performance. Parents often try too hard to enrich their children.
Perhaps we need to look at the long term goal as parents which in my opinion is to raise decent adults who are kind and independent. Aren’t extracurricular activities meant to be fun.
Here are some ideas to keep in mind to limit over scheduling:
1. Set limits. This could be the one sport/one art idea or it could be the number of practises or tournaments.
2. Build relationships. Families need to build strong relationships with friends and enjoy life outside activites.
3. Be unproductive. Unstructured play is an underrated joy. Take time to go for a walk , read, or play a board game with your family.
$. Listen to your Inner Voice. Do what is right for your family, not what is right for the coach or for your friend’s carpool. (My personal favourite: getting friends to join so they can help carpool, shhhh….)
Being busy for the sake of busy-ness is not good and is downright unhealthy. My family and I are working on this for the upcoming season. Personally, I am giving up one hockey night and soccer( I would prefer to give up laundry). I know kids need 60 minutes of physical activity a day but at our house this winter we are going to look at this differntly . And when someone says”So What have you been doing”? I may just say “Nothing”.