It is that time of year when kids head back to school and extracurricular activities begin again. It is well known that kids do well with structure and the social interactions experienced during these activities are beneficial as well. After school activities are also a great deterrent to risky behavior for older kids that may otherwise be unsupervised while parents are at work. Parents want to see their kids pursue their passions and develop life skills, but want to avoid creating stress and pressure. So, how do you find the balance?
- Plan ahead – The best way to avoid stress is to be organized. Brian Tracy, author of How to Master Your Time, says that for every minute you spend planning, you save 10! Create a central place to organize your family calendar and teach your kids how to prepare for the week. Plan clothes, meals and homework schedules and anticipate events that will require a change in your normal routine.
- Don’t overdo it – While structure is good, you can have too much of a good thing. Kids also need some unstructured time where they can be self-directed and have time for self-reflection. If your child isn’t having fun with their activities anymore that can be a sign they are overcommitted. Other signs to watch for are dropping grades, mood swings and complaints of headaches and pains.
- Make sure your child gets enough sleep – Sleep is just as important to your kid’s health as nutrition and exercise. Studies have shown that a good night’s sleep helps kids maintain a healthy weight, boosts their immune system and increases their learning abilities. Tired kids crave higher-fat and higher-carb foods which can lead to extra weight. While they are sleeping, kids produce proteins known as cytokines that are responsible for fighting infections. Lack of sleep decreases the number of cytokines which increases the likelihood of infections. When kids are sleep deprived, they lack focus making it harder to learn. Sleep has also been shown to play a role in memory which is critical for learning new information.
- Be willing to say no – You know your kid better than anyone. What works for someone else may not work for your kid because every kid is different. Be willing to say no for the sake of your child’s well-being. Set priorities and communicate with your kids. Ask them if they love what they are doing. If they don’t say yes, it is time to choose a new activity or scale back their schedule. Sometimes saying no is the best thing you can do for your child.
It is possible to find balance between school, life and activities. It is up to you as the parent to set priorities and manage the schedule to make sure you kid is still enjoying their activities.