PUT YOUR CHILD’S INTERESTS FIRST
1 Learn to prioritize
Grab your calendar and make time for what is essential first: spending time together as a family, relaxation and play. Once you have that time set apart, you can begin adding in other activities. Help your child set priorities, too.
2 Involve your child
You may think hockey is the best choice for your child, but he may prefer swimming or soccer. Childhood is the time to discover. Make sure you ask your child every semester how he feels about the activities he is taking before booking again.
3 Limit the amount of extra-curricular activities
A healthy balance usually involves one physical activity per week and one arts-related activity. Keep in mind each activity involves practice time. Find out from the beginning what the coach’s expectations are for the team, for example. If it’s too much, you’ll know that from before starting.
4 Sit with your child to do homework.
By connecting with your child over homework, you’ll learn how your child is doing both academically and socially. You’ll also have the opportunity to teach your child values and skills, such as discipline and organization. Your child will feel supported, loved, and understood.
5 Make sure there is time to read and get a good rest.
Reading is a very important habit. It stimulates the intellect and imagination and leads to recognition from teachers and society. This alone will make a dramatic impact in your child’s self-confidence, which in turn, will spread to other areas.
6 Re-evaluate often
Everyone changes, especially children. What your daughter likes today may not be what she likes tomorrow. Take the time to explore options together, and show your child that she is the one in control of those decisions. Watch for burnout.
Today’s world requires creative thinkers and leaders. Cutting back on scheduled activities and empowering your child to create, socialize, or play will decrease stress and help them flourish into leaders.
5 WARNING SIGNS THAT YOU NEED TO CUT BACK
1 Your child feels lethargic or tired. His first reaction is not of excitement when you mention having to leave for school, or for hockey practice. Getting up in the morning may also be difficult.
2 She seems unhappy, or just “okay.” She doesn’t laugh as much as she used to and has become less talkative.
3 He complains of stomachaches, shortness of breath, headaches or dizziness.
4 It is impossible to get the family together for dinner most nights. Everyone has conflicting schedules.
5 There is no time for relaxation, play, or even for the children to help at home with daily activities.
—Natacha V. Beim
BEFORE YOU CUT BACK
While there are times when you undoubtedly need to cut back on your child’s schedule, once he has started an after-school class, don’t allow him to arbitrarily quit. The child has a responsibility to himself, his fellow players, and/or to the instructor, so consider other options. If you genuinely think your child shouldn’t give something up, suggest a change of coach, teacher or group; attending less often; reducing other commitments (if the complaint is overload); or hanging on for three months, to test if the change of heart is for real. Sometimes simply cheering your child onward is enough to re-motivate.