With school being out for the summer in Central Florida, families tend to see a major shift in their routines.
Parents want their kids to make the most out of their summers by staying busy with sports, camps and other planned activities, which can be a rewarding way to spend the down time, but the break from school can also be a chance for children to slow their schedules down a bit.
Keeping kids’ schedules jam-packed can be exhausting for both children and parents. Experts say that’s why it’s important to listen to children in order to make sure they’re not being overscheduled.
For example. Brooke, an ambitious 8-year-old Michigan girl, already plays violin, loves to go rock climbing and is giving tennis a try this summer. She also wants try her hand at dance.
“She is at a good age to try things; to find out what she really does want to do maybe long-term, so I want to give her the chance to try things,” her mother said.
But Julie Demchak said her daughter has to choose which activities to try, because she can’t do them all.
Since Demchak works in early childhood education, she said she’s learned how important having down time is for kids’ health and watches for signs that her daughter is overscheduled.
“I look for clues,” Demchak said. “If she seems extra crabby, maybe we’re doing too much.”
Dr. T. Jan Caison-Sorey, the medical director at Blue Cross Blue Shield, specializes in pediatrics and said it all depends on the individual child.
“You really have to stay focused on who your child is and what kind of personality and what kind of individual your child is,” Caison-Sorey told News 6 sister station WDIV in an interview. “Not everybody can do everything. Not everybody can do what the other child does.”
Caison-Sorey also said that children being overscheduled is often reflective of their parents.
“It’s a reflection of the parent and what the parent thinks the child should be doing,” Caison-Sorey said. “(It’s) sort of comparing the child to what other children are doing.”
How can you tell if a child is overscheduled? According to Caison-Sorey, there are a few signs that parents should look for.
Fatigue is one of them.
“Is your child exhausted at the end of the day?” Caison-Sorey asked. “Is their head on the table when they’re supposed to be eating? Are they concentrating enough to actually stay up academically? Is there any down time for them to relax? Eat without rushing? Speeding from one event to another in the car, are you really doing the best for your child if you have them overscheduled?”
Caison-Sorey said being overscheduled takes not only a physical toll on children, but a psychological one, too.
She recommends having conversations with children about their schedules and listening to them if they seem to have concerns.
She also said parents should put children in activities where they can be successful while spending quality time with them.
“The summertime should be about being a parent; spending as much time (as you can with your child),” Caison-Sorey said. “Bottom line is, don’t have such a structured life that there’s no time for you to engage with your child. Take them to some place where they love to go have fun. It doesn’t have to be far, but spend time.”
Experts said that if a child is overscheduled and parents decide it’s time to drop an activity or two, make sure the child is part of the conversation so that they can feel like they own the decision not to want to do something anymore.
Caison-Sorey also said it’s important to remember there’s no such thing as a cookie-cutter child and since each one is different, parents should take the time to learn who they are as individuals, what skills they have, what they’re good at now and what they aren’t good at yet.