Do you need "people" to keep your child's calendar straight? Are there so many activities that it is easy to lose track? Do you ever wonder if you are over-scheduling the youngster? If early mornings and late nights are the norm in your family, your child may be overdoing it. Deciding how many activities to permit per child is not a question that carries a decisive answer. Nevertheless, there are some virtually universal gauges that make arrival at your personal number possible.
Take Stock of the Youngster's School Schedule
Elementary school is pretty much over in the early afternoon. Come middle school, there are suddenly sports leagues and other extracurricular activities the school might offer. By the time high school comes around, clubs, study groups, band rehearsals, athletic meets, and college preparation projects seem to turn the school day into a 12-hour day job.
Tip: Adjust the number of extracurricular activities based on the number of school activities your child chooses to participate in.
Keep and Eye on Grades and Sleep Patterns
If your child's grades are suffering, there is a chance that she might be too busy with horseback riding, gymnastics, chess club, and afternoon art classes to actually do homework, study for tests, or simply digest the information she was fed earlier in the day. Do not discount a lack of sleep. Rushing from school to the gym is stressful and tiring. Rushing from the gym to the home for dinner and homework is time-consuming. If your child has to stay up late -- more often than not -- to do homework, you have over-scheduled the youngster, even if he only does one extracurricular activity per week.
Tip: Limit activities to a Friday or Saturday, when there is no school the next day and homework can be put off.
Balance Your Checkbook and Day Planner
Take a look at your life as well. Are you over-exercising your credit cards to buy gear, costumes, and other materials needed for your child's extracurricular activities? If so, there is a good chance that you are going beyond your means to let the youngster participate in sports. This is financially unhealthy. At the same time, if your day is spent rushing from work to pick up a child, rushing said child to an activity, then rushing to shop or do errands, and finally rushing home to feed the family, there is too much rushing in your life. It is good to be busy, but if you are so busy that you cannot enjoy spending time with your child, you are too busy.
Tip: Honestly assess how much time and money you can afford to spend on your child's activities before they become burdensome. Cut out those that tip the scale in favor of "burdensome," and only keep those that allow for budget-friendly decisions and keep enjoyable family time intact.
How to Choose What Stays
I have found that the most valuable input comes from the child. Never mind what books, magazines, friends, and peers decree; your child knows if soccer, volleyball, and soft ball are too much for him. He knows whether he likes martial arts better than football. He also knows if he is dissatisfied with the family time he gets to enjoy. Last but not least, let your child tell you if he is too tired in the mornings. Enlist your child's help to whittle down the superfluous activities you might have believed would be good for the youngster but that now, upon closer examination, hang like an albatross around your -- and your child's -- neck. Remember: you are ultimately in charge of choosing a youngster's activities.Content by Sylvia Cochran.