It seems more and more we read about how overscheduled kids are today, and I have to agree. From birthday parties and sports to academic camps and scouts -- on top of school, homework, and family events -- many kids have more on their calendars than most college socialites.
This is concerning to me in terms of not only the kids' well being but also the mom's well being since it's usually mom who's making all the scheduling and running around work in an already busy modern family's life.
Perhaps it's time there was a backlash against this kind of overbooking in our children's lives for the sake of everybody's sanity. Today guest writer and mom Lisa Kurtz offers some tips for balancing your kids' schedules in a more positive way that works for everyone.
Turn Hyper-Parenting Into Happy Parenting
By Lisa Kurtz
One of the many rewarding things about parenting is that no matter what age kids are, new challenges arise, and we keep experiencing "light bulbs" or revelations while we nurture them.
One thing that surprised me was the pressure to sign them up for activities at such an early age. When my first child turned 4, I noticed all the things his peers were already active in and I became overwhelmed. Would he fall behind? Couldn't we just play together at the park for now?
Today parents have a multitude of options for scheduling their child's day: sports (through school as well as independent leagues), clubs (chess, foreign language), play dates, homework, fine arts, performing arts, etc. In the blink of an eye, the month's calendar is full. Filling that calendar can provide a feeling of organization or accomplishment for us as parents, but maybe we should take a step back and ask how our children feel about it.
While it is nice to have all these options, they can get overwhelming (not to mention expensive). Be sure to involve your child in the process. For instance, our son is 12, and we feel old enough to have a major opinion about which activities he wants to do this summer. He has excelled at guitar and has a passion for it, so that one is a given. As for physical activity, we picked two together for the summer that were not too time-consuming or expensive. My daughter likes to be with family and stay home, but we have encouraged her to take an art class and do some creative writing because I see that she enjoys it and also happens to be good at it. For awhile, I tried to force her to take more classes, but she asked me why I would spend all that money when she was very happy to do art at home. I concurred.
Creating a balance is also important. Don't forget relaxation and family time, put it on the calendar if you have to. Occasionally we all go to family yoga -- one of my favorites because we are doing it together and it's a great lifetime activity. I also look forward to unstructured days when we see what creeps up or we explore something new.
I remember something a celebrity once said about parenting; for some reason it stuck with me. Certainly not claiming to be a parenting expert, Jim Carrey commented about lurking in the shadows and watching your child's interests and talents develop and then offering encouragement and praise. This made sense to me.
Three things that are so important to kids and will stay with them forever are love, respect, and guidance. The result will build their confidence and self-esteem. Isn't that what parents are here for? To love and nurture and turn our little ones into independent adults who make a positive impact on others?
Also remember, kids change and mature over time. What they hated doing yesterday could become their favorite thing to do next week. The important thing is that they enjoy it. They need to know they can make independent choices.
Take a look at your calendar and consider the balance of activities and relaxation or family time in your children's schedule. Make sure you have conversations with your kids about what they enjoy doing. Schedule an activity to do together and stay connected with them. Above all, don't expect them to be good at everything. Give them some control of their lives, too. One day, they will wake up and need to make those decisions on their own.
What do you think about Lisa's thoughts on happy parenting vs. hyper-parenting? Which do you practice? Are you where you want to be?
Lisa Kurtz is a mother of two, ages 12 and 10. After being in the advertising industry for 18 years, she switched gears to be a work-at-home mom. She stays busy parenting her "big kids" and running her online retail store TheBasicShop.com, which features natural and organic bath and body, apparel and baby. Since her children were very young, she has been observing the challenges of scheduling their days and lives while trying to find a happy balance.
Image via emrank/Flickr