The beginning of the school year can be an exciting time. Dressed in brand new clothes and carrying new backpacks filled with sharpened pencils and clean binders of white, school-lined paper, your kids get to see friends they haven’t seen for 3 months and sit in classrooms with a new teacher, breaking up their day in ways they haven’t had to in months. But it can also bring dread to kids who have already endured a very busy summer of camps, summer school, and workshops, only to have an even busier schedule with school, sports, and music, among other things. Time that once was used for independent play, sitting quietly with a book, or a spur of the moment neighborhood game of baseball has now been taken over by after school daycare, Little League practices, and piano lessons. There is no time for play. There is no time to unwind. There is barely time for homework. From the time an overscheduled kid wakes up to the time they go to bed, they are on the go. And what is the result? Activity burnout.
During the soccer season both of my kids’ days consist of going to school, then going to after school care. I pick them up and they dress in their uniforms while eating a snack as we drive to the field. An hour and a half later we’re at home. I’ll cook dinner while they do homework. After eating it is time for showers and then bed. There is no downtime. We don’t get to hang out. And all of us are more tired than ever. Quitting soccer is not an option, it is a sport that both of them love and will never give up. And being that they each have to attend practices (2 days a week per child) and a game (once or twice a week), this is bound to give us only one day off a week. And I need to work, so I can’t exactly quit their daycare either. So I get that sometimes schedules are hectic and there is no way around it. But is there an easier way to lighten the burden for kids?
Just this past weekend my son asked me if he could take golf lessons, on top of playing soccer in the fall and baseball in the spring. And he had previously asked if he could continue with the martial arts we had given up last year. I said “no” for his benefit and well being, but mostly I said “no” for mine. With a full time job, and being that I am already pulled in separate directions with both kids activities, I couldn’t fathom adding more. And of course he was disappointed. But we follow one simple rule in our house – if you want to add another activity, you have to take away an activity. Since there is only one driver in our household, we can only do one sport a season. If he wants to play golf in the fall, he has to give up soccer (which is already paid for, so it’s not really an option). If he wants to play year-round, baseball goes as well. For him, that was not a trade he was willing to make. So until he can drive himself, adding another sport is not going to happen.
Activity burnout goes both ways, too. As an overscheduled parent, it is hard to not feel exhausted at all times when the whole day consists of carting kids from one activity to another, volunteering for the PTA, assisting as team mom for the soccer team, and keeping the household together. Dinners need to be made, the grocery shopping has to be done, the budget needs to be balanced and the floor is not going to vacuum itself. When going to work feels like a vacation, it’s time to reevaluate your time.
Everyone needs a break, parents and kids. TwoKidMom on the Santa Rosa Mom forums suggested that if at all possible, take one day a week and schedule NOTHING. “I like to find one day in the week and keep that day open – no sports, meetings, anything. And if I can keep one of the weekend days open so that the kids and I can hang out, even better! It’s hard to not be on the run during the week (especially with school starting!), but if there is at least a little bit of a break to just slow down, it helps.” It also helps to strategically planning out your week so that several things can be done on the same day (like grocery shopping while the munchkins are at soccer practice). And every day needs at least a few moments of silence. Even just waking up early to sit in silence with your morning cup of coffee can do wonders for preparing you for the day.
How do you refrain from burning your child out without keeping them from doing what they like? And how do you keep yourself from being overscheduled? Have you found a happy medium?
Speaking of school…..how have you prepared your kids in the transition from a summer schedule to a busy school schedule? And what do you do to make the school schedule less hectic? Do you have any recommendations for other parents out there? Share them on the forums at SantaRosaMom.com.