Overscheduled Kids

Let kids be kids

by Justyn Smith/ November 12, 2015

My wife and I have six children and we find ourselves with the incredible responsibility of managing our children’s time. Life seems incredibly busy. If it’s not school, it’s a sport. If it’s not a sport, it’s a church activity. If it’s not a church activity, it’s extended family obligations. I haven’t even mentioned personal or immediate family time.

We live in an era filled with pressure to keep our kids busy. It used to be that kids kept themselves busy. Starting in the 20th century there was a huge movement to make sure our kids are constantly involved in some sort of activity all the time. This is causing unnecessary stress on not just us as parents, but on our kids.

It’s easy to fall into the trap, especially as we all unintentionally try to keep up with the neighbors, but it’s important that we allow time for kids to be kids. In order to do this we have to give them—wait for it—time!

Let me free you from the lie that your kids have to always be doing something. They don’t. Yes, your child may love sports, but that doesn’t mean they have to be in every sport all season. Consider the following:

"Parents need to teach their kids to balance human doing with human being," said clinical psychologist Paula Bloom. “Kids need to know they're not defined by what they do,” she said. “They need time to play, experiment, rest and figure out who they are.”

"As parents, we've got to get over our anxiety that we're not doing enough. Creating a sense of safety, helping kids have confidence to try certain things, those are the things that matter." (http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/08/living/overscheduled-busy-children/)

We are far from perfect parents, but here are a few things we’ve done to help our kids create margin:

  • Prioritize wants and activities. Our kids want to be in tons of sports and extracurricular activities. We help them prioritize the things they really want to do, which helps weed out the things they think they want to do.

  • Stick to seasons. Soccer season is in the fall, and so we stick with soccer season. We let them choose a season. We typically stay away from traveling leagues at the moment because of the crazy time commitments. Also, we’re pretty aware that our kids will not be the next Lebron James, Lionel Messi, or Mike Trout, so it doesn’t make sense to make that kind of investment.

  • Empower them to choose. We put the choices before our kids and let them choose. They can’t choose everything, but they can choose one thing. Or, for example, our youth ministry has many great opportunities for teens to get involved and grow, however if we let them participate in everything, they’d be gone four nights a week just with youth activities alone. So we let them choose two of four.

Some of these can seem like tough decisions, but they allow us teaching moments of what it means to be family, keeps us from dealing with the craziness of six schedules and gives them opportunity to be themselves. It’s time to be honest. Ask yourself the question, “Are my kids too busy?” If you answer yes, then let’s begin to make steps toward freeing up your kids’ schedules.

What are ways you’ve kept your kids’ schedules from being too busy?