Actually, I have been asking myself this very thing recently. Once the cold weather sets in, I start to feel the need to sign my kids up for swim lessons and gymnastics just to keep them active and moving during the winter months. For my family, those two activities are an appropriate amount. Any more “extras” in the schedule would feel too hectic and cause us to sacrifice too much free time.
Every family member is going to have a different level of tolerance for activity depending on temperament, interests and other factors. Some adults and some kids will feel overwhelmed by extracurriculars, especially after a full day of work or school. So this question doesn’t have a simple answer. You have to know what works for your child and for your family.
Some things to consider are: What are your child’s interests/passions? Are they truly motivated to participate in this activity/sport? What will they gain from participating? What other time commitments are there day to day (homework, chores, part-time work, etc)? How much driving are you willing to do? What is lost by adding this activity to your schedule?
This last question is particularly important, I think. All activities and commitments come at the expense of something. Are you willing to give up opportunities for family togetherness such as shared family meals? Are you willing to spend your time driving and coordinating your child’s schedule instead of perhaps investing in your own self-care?
Finally, I want to emphasize the value of scheduling “down time.” We’re raising kids in a fast-paced culture that glorifies “busy” and entertains us 24/7. Boredom is shunned. Doing nothing is considered lazy and unproductive. Slowing down in this break-neck environment can be a real act of resistance. When you leave space for your kids and family to “disconnect” and just be, you are actually doing something wonderful for the brain. Researchers have found that down time helps us process our experience, consolidate memories, reinforce learning, regulate our attention and emotions, keep us productive and effective in our work and judgment, and more.
Figuring out the right rhythm for your family takes some time and tweaking. Be watchful and willing to change your level of commitments should you see signs of stress, loss of sleep, grades suffering, emotional deregulation (snapping, quick to tears or frustration), and family disconnectedness.
*Need extra support in your parenting? Join me for a new conscious parenting support group Sundays at the Albany Family Life Center! Email for more details: [email protected]
Julia, a PCI Certified Parent Coach and Capital District mom, helps other parents look within for the answers they seek and believes there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to child-rearing. Send you questions and comments to [email protected]