The beginning of the school year, for some, actually feels more like a new year. Families are getting acquainted with new schools, new teachers and new schedules, not to mention a buffet line of new opportunities for extracurricular activities. If parents aren’t careful, they will have kids involved in three different activities, going in opposite directions. As a result, what little family time there was is now non-existent.
How many times have you found yourself grabbing the kids from school, running by a fast-food place for dinner and heading out to practice with one child trying to finish homework in the car and the other throwing on their practice clothes? Many parents have resigned themselves to believing this is life as we know it and the goal is to survive.
Before your family life becomes a runaway train, consider what is best for your family when it comes to afterschool activities and the amount of time you spend together. Many loud voices will tell you all the things your child needs to participate in for future success. Certainly, extracurricular activities can make your child’s life richer, but they can also create additional stress and anxiety for the entire family.
When you rarely sit down for a meal together or have the opportunity to connect, relationships can suffer. Plus, trying to keep up can be exhausting. So, how much is too much?
Here are some suggestions from kidshealth.org to help you manage activities and family connectedness:
- Set ground rules ahead of time. Plan on kids playing one sport per season or limit activities to two afternoons or evenings during the school week.
- Know how much time things require. Does your child realize soccer practice is twice a week or more, right after school? Then there's the weekly game. Will homework suffer?
- Set priorities. School comes first. If kids have a hard time keeping up academically, they may need to drop an activity.
- Know when to say no. If your child is already active but really wants to take on another activity, discuss what needs to be dropped to make room for something new.
- Stay organized with a calendar. Display it on the refrigerator so everybody can stay up-to-date. And if you find an empty space on the calendar, leave it alone! Everyone needs a chance to just do nothing.
- Even if kids sign up for the season, let them miss one or two sessions. Sometimes hanging out on a beautiful day is more important than going to one more activity, even if you've already paid for it.
- Try to balance activities for all of your kids — and yourself. It hardly seems fair to expend time and energy carting one kid to activities, leaving little time for another. Take time for yourself and spend time together as a family.
- Create family moments. Plan a few dinners when everyone can be home at the same time.
Family time is a precious commodity, and your children will grow up in the blink of an eye. Plan now to set your family priorities, avoid unnecessary activities and be intentional about spending time together as a family.