The carefree days of summer are over – which means days packed with school, homework, sports, music lessons and a myriad of other after school activities. How do you balance the benefits of after school activities and clubs for your kids with the importance of having time to connect as a family?
There’s no denying extracurricular activities are important for children and their development. According to the Department of Education, these activities build self-esteem, resilience, teamwork, communication skills, relationships and a sense of belonging, all of which help improve academic achievement and reduce the risk of suicide in older children and teens.
How much is too much?
But too many activities can have an adverse effect on children and on your family life. If you notice one or more of these signs, it may be time to reevaluate which activities are worth keeping and which ones can be cut from your schedule.
- When a child begins complaining about going to certain activities
- If your child displays emotional outbursts or increased irritability
- When a child appears sleep deprived or shows signs of being constantly tired
- If a child is showing signs of being stressed – for instance, if they begin to fall behind in schoolwork or stop wanting to hang out with friends
The importance of family time
Family relationships are also critically important for children’s development. Strong family ties have been associated with lower levels of adolescent depression and delinquency and directly correlate to better academic performance, self-esteem, resilience and ability to control emotions.
Balancing family time with your child’s extracurriculars can be challenging no matter how many activities your child is participating in.
Try these four tips for finding the right balance.
- Prioritize what matters: Encourage your child to choose the one or two activities that are most important to them and just say no to the rest.
- Focus on family meals: As often as possible, put away your devices, ask about the best and worst parts of your children’s days and focus on really connecting for the 30 minutes it takes to eat dinner.
- Talk to your kids about balance: Kids are never too young to learn the importance of balancing activities, school, family time and mental health. Ask your children how they are feeling about the activities they’re participating in, which activities they want to continue and which activities they may be ready to cut.
- Sneak in quality time: Look for small ways to talk and connect with your children throughout the day. Cooking dinner together, helping each other with chores like dishes or picking up, walking the dog or running errands can all become quality time when you focus on being present and connecting with your child.
Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to balancing after-school activities with family time. Make adjustments as you go until you find the right cadence of school, activities and family time for your child and family.
If you know a tween or teen who is having thoughts of suicide or who is struggling with their mental health, encourage them to call Teen Lifeline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year at 602-248-TEEN (8336) or 800-248-TEEN. Texting is available between noon and 9 p.m. on weekdays and from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends at 602-248-8336. teenlifeline.org