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Is Your Child Too Busy?

Lessons. Clubs. Sports. Add school and homework into the mix. Stir in haphazard meals on the go – and lack of sleep – and... voilà! You have a classic recipe for one overscheduled, burned-out kid. Of course, some kids cope well when there's a lot going on. But, others struggle. An overflowing plate can take a toll on anyone's well-being – whether you're 7 years old, 17 or 47! It can lead to anxiety, depression, fatigue, and frequent headaches and stomachaches.

Easing up

Do you think your child is doing too much? Here are some tips on taking a look at activities – and striking a healthier balance:

  • Prioritize. Most parents agree: School should come first. But, remember that kids need family time, physical activity, rest and downtime, too. If extra activities lead to your child skimping on schoolwork or losing out on sleep, it's time to reevaluate priorities.
  • Focus on the fit. What extracurricular pursuits suit your child best? Consider the child's age, temperament, interests and abilities. Also, ask yourself: Is this something my child really wants – or is there pressure to participate?
  • Talk it through. Discuss with kids how to select and prioritize activities – and why a schedule that's not overly demanding is best. Listen thoughtfully to their wishes, and share yours, too. These conversations may help kids learn important lessons in goals, compromise and life balance. For younger children, you may need to make the call to ease up on activities – or to avoid adding new ones for now. Of course, there's no single formula for balance. But, taking cues from your child, talking about it and using your judgment may help prevent one stressed-out kiddo.

And, finally, consider your own schedule, as well. Try to be a good role model in how you spend your time.

The upside of downtime

Kids of all ages need free time to play, think and daydream. They can learn how to entertain themselves, grow more creative and discover activities they enjoy. That means having plenty of "open" time in the daily schedule. Encourage this free-flowing time in your family – and watch imaginations bloom.

Source: Healthy Mind Healthy Body®, Arleen Fitzgerald, L.I.C.S.W., November 2011.

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