By Heidi Meyer
I’m amazed at the busyness of some families. The children hardly have time to surface from their school day or have lunch and they are already rushed to the next activity with shouts like, “Come on! Have you changed yet? Remember to take your swimming costume, we won’t have time to come back, before your sister goes to ballet!” All of you are constantly stress about “What next?” or “Where do we have to go to now?” All of you arrive back home at the end of the day totally drained, with no energy to even contemplate homework or making dinner.
This time of the year is filled with excitement, it’s thrilling with prospects of new friends and teachers, starting in a new school or class, but unfortunately is also filled with lots of anxiety and stress, what extra-mural activities to partake in and the fear of failure.
Children have so many choices of sport, cultural and extra-curricular activities that overscheduling is a huge contributor to school and parental stress. Just think of the logistics to get everyone where they must be on time! So why is it that we participate and even encourage this rat race?
Be honest now!
Are you guilty of pressurising your children because of the assumption that it will lead to success and status for parents and the child. That it will give them opportunities in life or is it that you feel guilty about leaving them alone at home or in charge of the domestic or au pair. With the assumption that it is better that they be involved in organised activities under supervision whilst you are at work?
Be careful of expecting too much and remember to be realistic about your child’s abilities. We can’t all be Da Vinci’s or Renaldo’s. Remember that your child’s success or failure will not influence your standing!
Does your child participate to be accepted or does he have fears? Does he partake in rugby just because that is “What dad did” or is “What will make him a man?” He feels accepted, at least dad spends some time with him whilst he is on the field and hopes to make dad proud. Does he fear that he might be missing out of things that he hasn’t tried or that he might be shunned by his peers if he doesn’t participate in activities that are viewed as being “cool”?
Does all this busyness really contribute to your and your child’s happiness or does it make life more hectic and stressful? Overscheduling might lead to frustration, resentment, depression and relationship problems because everybody is constantly under pressure!
Are you looking forward to a year living with less stress and obligation so that you and your children have more time to pursue what you really want? Choose to make life easier by following some of these tips.
Give yourselves permission to do less. Simplify life and make it more manageable. Help your children choose activities that enriches them and do what they like. It’s easy to choose, look at the body language to see if it is right. Are they filled with excitement and laughter or do they drag their feet when you take or pick them up from their activities?
If they do what they love, it will give them sense of self and energise them for homework, research and projects. Pairing down doesn’t mean less success, status or happiness. It gives them the freedom to focus on things that they like doing and what really matters to them.
Limit time on electronic devices
Your child needs to learn that it is important to tune out and make time for other things and communication with people around them. Install rules about screen time and stick to them, i.e. no screen time until homework is done.
Implement set bedtimes
Most children suffer from sleep deprivation as they don’t get the 9 hours sleep. This leaves them tired, grumpy and stressed even before the day starts. Have alarms set for rising and check that they get up on time.
Start morning routines the night before for a peaceful start to the day. Lay out outfits for the next day. Pack school bags and tog bags for activities, put them at the ready at your launch pad and make lunches. Set breakfast and exit-the-home times to get out of the house timeously.
You know how stressful a job can be. Day in day out, without a break is consuming. Well, school and extra-curricular activities are a full time job for your children too. They are children after all and need unstructured time to recharge, just to be kids, ride their bike, do what they love, read a book, daydream, swim, catch up with a friend.
Encourage your little nerd to participate in at least one physical activity this will give it a change of focus and get it outside.
Make family time fun
Start off by having sit down meals, at least one a day. Talk to and listen to your children about the day’s happenings and plans for the next day. Meals are a great time to connect and share. Communicate to your children that you love them, and dads this includes you in particular! even if they do not excel, meet your, ‘unreal?’ expectations or make mess ups. Remember the Billy Joel song: “No need for clever conversation, I’ll take you just the way you are!”
It’s not just about quality time but quantity time. Games evenings and family outings over weekends are times for bonding and enjoying each other’s company.
Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t advocate that children do not participate in extracurricular activities.
Children thrive on a schedule and routine. Children that participate in activities outside school, are well rounded, achieve academically, have a better self-esteem, hone social skills of interaction with peers and have high aspirations.
It is good for children to participate in organised activities supervised by responsible adults. Be observant, if your child starts being overwhelmed and stressed by being overscheduled consider cutting back on activities. Consider what it does to you, your lives and your family relationships. Simplify your life and make it more manageable.
Have fun! Family, is number one!