Avoid over-scheduling and learn how to balance your child’s time.
By Judith E. Lipson, M.A., LPC
Even during these difficult economic times, many families provide their children with enrichment activities: T-ball, soccer, gymnastics, dance, martial arts, hockey, horseback riding, football, academic tutoring, and the list goes on and on. While these children are the fortunate beneficiaries, important opportunities can be missed and difficulties can arise when a child is over scheduled.
Providing structured activities and play dates is especially beneficial when a child is shy or is shunned by peers. If this child only has the opportunity to connect with other children when s/he initiates, there will likely be continued isolation and minimal opportunity to learn social interaction skills. Providing this child with activities is very helpful for social and emotional development.
In addition, the shy or isolated child tends to passively engage in computer and video gaming. Gaming is desired because it effectively distracts children from distressing feelings and thoughts. Interacting with computers (games or programming) does not require the child to process dialogue, intonation, body language, emotions or manners. Therefore, it can leave a child one-dimensional.
Additional benefits of planned activities include teamwork, following a schedule, having structure, and learning to follow rules. Be sure that your child or adolescent can actually derive these benefits. It is not as helpful if the parent is the juggler and steps in when there are problems with teamwork or rules. (For additional discussion about supporting your child in these lessons see Effective Communication, and Independent Children.)
Parents need to be cautious of how many activities that they provide for their child. A child who has many arranged activities may lack the opportunity to think for one-self, express creatively and problem solve. These are important skills that also increase resilience and delayed gratification. The amount of involvement is based on your child’s personality and needs.
- Begin with a visual representation of your child’s schedule.
- Create a Monday through Sunday calendar in half-hour increments. 7am to 11pm is generally recommended.
- Write each of your child’s activities into the daily schedule blocks.
- Include: school, clubs, sports, doctor or therapy appointments, tutoring, after school classes, work. Include activities where this child accompanies another.
- Consider religious education, religious services and family time (visits to grandparents, etc).
- Include before school, after-school, evening and weekend activities and travel time.
Evaluate the schedule
- Your child has personal / creative time
- There is opportunity for social connecting
- There is ample opportunity for rest, relaxation, exercise and sleep
- Your child can eat and snack nutritionally
Next assess the balance to assure maintenance of grades. When I do this exercise with students I often find that their complaint that they ‘have no time to do homework’ is correct. I may recommend that they remove an activity or two. I can also, through this method, help students to identify time for homework completion and studying that they didn’t formerly see. Here’s how to do this:
- Look to see if there is time for daily homework; block it in
- On days that the schedule doesn’t seem to allow for homework point out the necessity to use the brief opportunities (sometimes only 15-20 minutes) in the car, on the team bus, while waiting to gather as a club, etc
- Look at course requirements – if there is a quiz or test every Friday for instance, and Thursday is an extremely busy day, then Wednesday should be assigned as the study day for that weekly quiz. Block this into the schedule.
I hope that you have found this useful to evaluate your child’s busyness factor and to use time effectively and efficiently.
This process can be applied to help adults manage time, too. You won’t likely forget to include all your family members’ activities in which you are involved; but remember to include personal restorative time as well!
Do you have additional tricks that you use? I’d love to hear from you.
Judy Lipson is a Licensed Professional Counselor and educational strategist in West Bloomfield. She helps clients of all ages who have learning difficulties; work or school related anxiety; ADHD; Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorders; and those who wish to Remember and Become Who You Really Are. Contact Judy at 248.568.8665 and firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit www. SpiralWisdom.net for more information.