Ask the Expert: Children’s busy schedules are driving us mad
Q How many extra-curricular activities should you take your children to? I have three children (five, seven and nine) and the week feels like one busy merry-
go-round, with me and my husband driving them to and from sports and afterschool activities, not to mention parties and play-dates. It used to be just about manageable until my youngest started school this year and now with all the things he has to do, it has become really pressured.
The weekend is the most unmanageable and it is a real juggling act to get them to everything with my husband and I making separate runs to cope. There is also the cost of keeping them involved in these events.
Of course I know that you are going to say that we should simply cut down on what they do but we want to make sure they get every opportunity. The other children in their classes seem to be doing just as much and we don’t want to disadvantage them in any way.
A These days, there is definitely increased pressure on parents to ensure that their children are involved in a large number of extra-curricular activities and sports.
This is very different than a generation ago when children may have been largely left to their own devices to organise their play and to make friends outside of school.
In certain circles nowadays, there is increased competition between parents to ensure their child is getting the best opportunities and this can feed on parental guilt for other parents who can worry their children might miss out if they don’t attend every activity (despite the financial and time cost).
As a result, many families are caught in the busy treadmill you talk about, full of pressured runs between events and long stressful times spent travelling.
The truth is that children can benefit as much from unstructured relaxed time at home with their family as they can from planned activities.
It is very important to remove the pressure and stress and to create a balanced routine for everyone.
Prioritise and plan
In organising your week, the key is to prioritise the activities that are most important to each of your children. Rather than involving them in everything, try to “tune into” each of your children and notice what things they most enjoy or have a talent for.
One or two activities is probably sufficient once they are well chosen. As they get older, involve them in making these choices and expect commitments from them if you put time and effort into supporting their choices.
Good planning can make a big difference to making a busy weekly schedule more manageable. For example, you might be able to choose activities near by or integrated into the school day or make agreements with other parents about sharing drop-off duties.
Try to achieve some “win-wins” in a busy schedule. Maybe you can spend individual time with one child when another is at an activity or have some personal time reading a book over coffee as you wait for a child to finish.