Sign ‘Em Up – By Michelle Johnson

Have you noticed all the cool and interesting activities, classes and workshops that are available these days? Not only for adults but for our children as well! There are so many fun opportunities and experiences we want our children to have, it’s so easy to want to do them all! We sometimes get a little over zealous in our excitement and end up over-scheduling our wee ones leaving parents and children alike a bit frazzled and burnt out at the end of the day.

Think on this: When does your child have the freedom and opportunity to just be a kid? Does your child get any downtime? Downtime could look like any of these things or more; playing quietly in his/her room, taking a quick nap, reading a book or watching a favorite video. When Sally has dance, soccer and guitar lessons each week, and her brother Johnny has football, karate and boy scouts too, factor in homework, games and practice time and there is barely any time to eat and bathe! We all need some downtime during our day and allowing yourself and your child the space in which to do that is a gift.

Take a moment and reflect on your favorite moments in childhood. Close your eyes and really reach back to 7, 8, 9 years old and see yourself in your minds eye at that age. What made you happy? What did you like to do at those ages? Some of my favorites were playing ‘house’ with my baby dolls, pretending that I was a veterinarian with my menagerie of pets, building forts with my brother, riding my bike with my best friends in the cul-de-sac pretending to be Charlie’s Angels catching bad guys…I also liked to play soccer on a team but it wasn’t the fondest of my memories. We grow up so fast as it is, it’s fun to have time to just be a kid and be free with our imagination and creative play.

I get it, you want to foster your child’s skills and interests! I’m just saying, it doesn’t have to all happen at the same time. A clear indication of being over-scheduled is feeling grumpy and hurried each day when we are taking our children to and from their activities. When we are in that space of negativity, our child is surely going to pick up on it. Maybe as the parent you are fine and feeling great about all the activities, however, how is your child feeling? Is he or she easily frustrated, argumentative, brought to tears easily, falling asleep in the car, falling behind in school, can’t get up in the morning, not wanting to participate in activities? These could be signs that he/she is burnt out. You know your child better than anyone, is their schedule too much? Is he or she just doing these things to please you? Is there just one too many things on your plate that in removing it could provide them the breathing room they need?

What works for my family is that each of the children, get to pick one activity/sport to do at a time.  The only exception that I have made is for my older kids when they wanted to attend youth group once a week in the evening in addition to their sport of choice. Sometimes one of my children has decided they didn’t like what they chose, so they finish out the season and try something new the next time. Currently I have one in soccer and one playing the violin. My oldest son does Mock Trial in high school and is in leadership at church. When my daughter still lived at home, she did competition cheerleading and youth group. We tried many different things prior to cheer, but that is the one that she LOVED! All these activities our children participate in are also a safe container for teaching about things like commitment, honesty, integrity, compassion, humility, respect, etc. These are qualities that will definitely take them far in life.

Each family will find their own balance and have their own ideas on scheduling activities. I’m just presenting one that has worked well in my situation and reminding parents to be mindful towards their children’s emotional wellbeing when considering the amount of scheduled activities to do. Have fun making memories!

Please leave a comment on what works for your family! I’d love to hear how other families find the balance in scheduling their daily activities while allowing their kids time to still be kids!