How do we balance extracurricular activities for our child so we are not stressed out?

A female soccer player heading the ballBefore our children are born, parents are already worried or thinking about childcare, preschool, or even the best public/private schools to enroll their children in. Some parents even consider moving to a different location in order to give their child the best education.

We always want to be one step ahead when it comes to parenting our children. We feel this pressure or competition to have our children speak Mandarin, Spanish, play a musical instrument, participate in a sport or be the president of their class. We do not always realize that we might be in competition with our own colleagues, other parents, and family members with children as well.

When is enough really enough?

We have stressed out parents and over-stimulated and exhausted our children. We all need down time to relax and regroup without being rushed all the time.

Here are some ideas and solutions to help you deal with this issue:

-Remember, children develop many interests throughout preschool to high school and they may want to explore new things all the time.

-Ask your child which extracurricular activity/sport would be their number one choice and which would be their number two choice. Do not give them more than two choices.

-After you decide together and give them time to think about it, tell them you will get back to them about the activity. (The cost, amount of time devoted to the activity, and scheduling for both of you before registering.)

-Find out if this activity is flexible or has a specific time, place, and hour to attend. If you are a working parent, this may affect your work schedule or feelings of guilt if you are unable to attend or participate.

-It is critical to consider time management when setting up activities for your child, yourself, and your family. Avoid cramming too many activities into one day. Consider traffic, health, dinner hour, homework, and your own personal time/marriage/relationship.

-Limit the number of extracurricular activities per week. Maybe one is enough, or no more than two, depending on the number of children you have. The last thing you want your child to experience is “burnout.” If your child is complaining every time that they have to participate, then investigate why that might be happening. Ask about bullies, or stress in their life, or about the coach, or their peers attending the activity before you pull them out. You may want to suggest that they finish that term before they quit.

Sleep, healthy eating and exercise should be a priority as well. Observe yourself and your child if you are always picking up fast food for dinner, how it affects your health, mood, weight, and energy level.

Family in kitchen.-It is important that your child develop strong relationships with their peers and family members. When we over schedule our children, this will not allow for developing healthy relationships and inspiring teamwork. Talk to your child about the importance of sportsmanship and being respectful of others when they win or lose. Think about role modeling situations where they observe your reactions and attitudes, such as take them with you while you participate in your own activity.

-It is also vital that you find out what type of coach, or mentor your child is being exposed to when selecting an activity/sport.

-Incorporate family time weekly to try to have dinners together and discussions instead of everyone eating separately (this creates a much closer family bond). Father-Son and mother-daughter, even sibling time, alone is also an important thing to include in the calendar. Ask each family member to not have any electronic devices at the table while having dinner. This includes the parent as well as the child to try and avoid answering emails, texts, tweeting, etc. BE PRESENT AND MINDFUL.

calendar-Maintain a large calendar/schedule that is visible to everyone in the house. If they are small children, use pictures instead of words, or color code. In your calendar schedule both parent work and school related activities. This way your children will know when and where you are at all times to avoid any communication issues.

-In addition to a schedule of work and school activities, have a chore chart placed in another part of the kitchen to review as to what is expected each day in order to receive an allowance, or privileges. This method of organizing can hopefully eliminate any excuses. Everyone will know what is expected.

-Contact friends or neighbors as a back-up plan in case you need carpooling, doctor appointment, or general assistance.

-Don’t forget to give positive affirmations and praise daily when your child has accomplished their chores or goals. Be cautious not to be negative with your comments if they did not do what was on the calendar right away. Communicate in a positive manner what time they are planning on doing it, and thanking them and showing appreciation.

Teach kids about money-Set up bank accounts early for your children (piggy bank) for helping with chores, completing homework, or participating in family situations. (This teaches the value of a dollar.) Once elementary children can add/subtract and understand the concept of money, give them an opportunity to save or use part of their money towards a toy, food, or an event.

-Teach gratitude daily. Notice when your children do things for the house or family when you do not ask them. Express your thanks by saying phrases such as, “I appreciate that you did the dishes tonight. Thank you so much.”