Finding Balance With After-School Activities. According to the National Allegiance of Sports, 70% of children leave organized sports altogether by age 13.
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A parent recently asked me, “If there was one word I could use to describe children today, what would it be?” I reflected on all of the students I have had over the years. I thought about the differences that I see between my current students and my students from ten years ago. I thought about my own children at home and compared them to my own childhood experience. One word came to mind, unbalanced.
I hear more and more frequently students telling me that they just do not have time to do homework. It is common for kids as young as second grade to tell me that they went from soccer to girl scouts to lacrosse all in one afternoon. They are tired and yet have so much energy that they cannot sit still to listen to a story or concentrate on a challenging math problem. I feel sad when they tell me that they hardly ever have play dates or just ride their bikes because of their afterschool activities.
So how can we, as parents, bring balance back into our children’s lives? Below are some ways to help your kids get the time they need to play, relax and just be kids!
HELPING OUR KIDS FIND BALANCE WITH AFTER-SCHOOL ACTIVITIES
1. Limit after-school sports!
This is the number one complaint I hear from my fifth-grade students. They are overscheduled. Many children today play multiple sports, twelve months a year. It is just the way sports are for our kids. You sign your kindergartener up for soccer, only to learn that practice is both fall and spring. You don’t want to let the team down, so you make every practice and every game, but is this really what’s best for your child?
According to the National Alliance of Sports, 70% of children leave organized sports altogether by age 13. They burn out early because of the level of competition and commitment it takes to be on a team. You can’t change the way sports are run in your town, but you can change your child’s experience. Sign up for one season only. Let the coach know that your child will only be playing in the fall so that he can try something else in the spring. Avoid highly competitive and expensive travel teams and exclusive clubs. Don’t worry if the other kids will be that much better than yours. Remember, you are trying to teach your child to be a life-long fan of physical activity, not burnt out before high school.
2. Don’t just limit sports.
Sports aren’t the only thing taking up your child’s precious time. Scouts, art classes, music lessons, clubs and religious activities also limit your child’s unstructured time. Make a list with your child of all of his activities. Have him order the activities from favorite to least favorite. Try to get rid of anything she really isn’t enjoying and isn’t a non-negotiable (religion classes and tutoring might fall into this category). Try and leave at least one or two days a week totally free. That means nothing but homework and free time. The kids deserve a day or two to just play and you deserve a day to not cart them all over town.
3. Don’t structure their unstructured time.
Ok. Now that you have cleared their schedules, don’t be tempted to fill that time with chores or other organized activities. Allow your kids to have a friend over and don’t plan anything for them to do. Let them play outside or in their rooms on their own. Kids need to learn how to manage their time and find things that they truly enjoy doing. The first few times might be hard, especially for kids who are used to having things planned for them. Encourage your kids to find their own fun. Now enjoy your coffee and magazine while the kids are out of your hair.
4. Find time for family!
Every year, I ask my students how often they eat dinner together with their families. The number of families who still have dinner together decreases each year. Parents underestimate the power of family time. Kids need your undivided attention for a short time each day. Make time for dinner together, turn off all devices and talk about your day! Your kids will love it and your will really get to know what is going on in their lives. Don’t have time for dinner? Schedule time for a board game or a bedtime story instead. Any time you spend with your kids is beneficial.
Do you have any ideas that I may have missed? Let me know below!
Thanks for reading,
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