Finding a Balance Between School and Activities

By Elizabeth Madrie Hardin

The average American child’s day doesn’t end when school lets out.  About 42 percent of school-aged children play sports, 28 percent are active in clubs, and 30 percent take lessons after school.  These extracurricular activities are beneficial. Learning to work and play together with other children hones skills that school may not.  A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Public Health highlights the importance of strong social and emotional skills.  The study claimed that these skills are better indicators of a child’s future academic and career success than cognitive skills.

A Healthy Balance

Children can become over scheduled which can lead to stress.  The key is finding a healthy balance between school and extracurricular activities.  How do parents know how many activities their child should take part in?  When it comes to sports, try to limit it to one sport per season.  Remember that most after school sports involve both practices and games every week.  The same goes for music lessons.  Your child might only attend lessons one afternoon per week, but musicians need to practice.  There is no “magic number” of activities that is best for children though.  Every family is different.  Take a look at your children’s schedule and see if they have some time for unstructured play.  Make sure that your family has time to spend together.  Family meals are also important, so ensure you have time to sit down for dinner together, at least a few times per week.  Work in enough time for homework and plenty of sleep.

Knowing When to Cut Back

Watch your child for cues.  Joan Grayson-Cohen of Jewish Family Services warned that children who make excuses about not attending activities may be over scheduled.  If they can never find their shin guards before soccer practice or if they are happy when practice is canceled, they might be ready for a break.  Also, watch for a drop in grades, an inability to entertain themselves and fatigue.

Letting Children Choose

There may be activities that you don’t want your children to quit.  Psychiatrist Alvin Rosenfeld advised parents to categorize extracurriculars as required (like religious school) or optional.  Let the child choose from the optional category.  Another good rule is to require them to finish out the year or the season and then decide whether to take the activity up again next time.

Watch for a drop in grades, an inability to entertain themselves
and fatigue.

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