Is Your Family at Risk for Extracurricular Burnout?
The list of extracurricular activities vying for our children’s attention and commitment is endless: play dates, band, football, dance, piano lessons, softball . . . the list is endless. Being well-rounded and balancing many activities is something we often pride ourselves in as adults, but is it healthy for children to attempt the same? Participating in too many activities leads to excess stress, and this stress can often lead to extracurricular burnout.
What are some signs of extracurricular burnout?
Signs of extracurricular burnout include moodiness, lack of enthusiasm where there used to be excitement (especially in regards to a particular activity), unusually low grades, and behavioral changes.
How can I help prevent extracurricular burnout?
While participation in organized activities is one way to keep children busy and out of trouble, not all kids can excel in extracurricular activities and academics. Each child handles a busy schedule differently, and trying to balance too many activities often means that none of them can be fully enjoyed. It is essential for children to have free time to rest and recuperate. Family time is just as important as any extracurricular activity, and spending time together outside of activities offers the whole family a chance for some downtime. When every minute of every day is scheduled, this time does not exist for you or your child. Consider this: if you are stressed about getting your child to all of his or her activities, your child is probably stressed too.
When should I cut down on my child’s activities?
A child should only participate in an activity if he or she enjoys it. Period. However, sometimes well-meaning encouragement from adults and peers can turn into pressure to perform. If your child seems moody or stressed, ask him about it. Is your child participating in activities because it’s fun, or because she thinks it is expected of her? One way to check if your child is overscheduled is to post a calendar with everyone’s daily schedules written out. If there is no room for downtime, then at least one activity should be removed from the schedule.
What if my child likes participating in several different activities?
If your child expresses interest in participating in many activities at once, consider limiting the number of activities he or she can be a part of at one time. If your child is worried about letting down an adult or peers in the activity, allow yourself to be the scapegoat, taking the blame for your child’s withdrawal. If your child is interested in sports, limit his or her participation to one sport per season. A rule of thumb to consider is only one sport, one artistic or musical activity, and one social activity at a time. With one activity in each of these areas, the chances of overlap are diminished.
The bottom line is that balance and moderation are essential. Too many activities stress out children and adults alike. It’s okay not to have a full schedule. In fact, free time allows your child to devote time to exactly what he or she wants to do. It can even stimulate creativity and lower stress. Watch for the signs of extracurricular burnout in your children and in yourself, and remember that just because an activity fits in the schedule doesn’t mean it belongs in your family.