Avoid an Over-Scheduled Summer
How much fun can you fit into three months? Some parents might be asking themselves that very question as they rapidly fill their children’s social calendar for summer. There’s no doubt that keeping kids busy during the summer can be a challenge but many families work to pack as much into one summer as possible; between vacations, holidays and summer camps, kids and parents alike may end up wondering where their summer went by the time September rolls around.
The fact is that some kids don’t know what “down time” means. They are on the go from sun up to sun down, packing as many activities as they can into a week or even a day.
The following is some advice to keep your family from feeling the burden of the overscheduled summer and finding a balance between structured activities and free time.
The biggest concern in over-scheduling kids is the amount of stress it puts on children. Stressed out kids may become irritable, tired, and overwhelmed by their summer schedules. Such feelings of stress could lead to changes in behavior, eating and sleeping, as well as physical problems or illness.
However, parents too feel the stress. Moms and dads are pressured to get their children from point A to point B on time and if you’re one of those parents schlepping around more than one child, that could add up to serious time taken away from work as well as quality family time.
The cost of activities can add up. Even if parents are able to pay for the activities without hurting the family finances, hidden costs such as eating out, gas, or uniforms can add up quickly thus creating a financial stress not originally planned for.
Too many structured activities take free play, imagination, and exploration out of the picture for many kids. Their calendar is filled, leaving no time to play creatively and discover new things without the aid of instructors or structured classes. At some point, parents have forgotten that children, left to their own imaginations, can learn to create fun where there was none.
While some activities are beneficial for children to participate in, parents should try to keep them to a minimum and allow “time off” to allow kids to rediscover the simple joys of summer. Give them time to connect with neighborhood friends, have sleepovers, read, or explore a new hobby. Allow them to be bored and encourage them to create their own fun instead of handing it to them.
Letting the child pick their activities puts them in the driver’s seat of their summer vacation. It allows them to choose what they’d like to do most. Children should not feel pressured to choose an activity because it’s what mom or dad wants.
Lastly, families need to continue to honor family time. Keep this time free of distractions, including scheduled activities. If these are taking the place of eating together as a family, consider dropping the interfering activity and take advantage of family meal time as a way to stay connected to each other.
Both free play and structured activities boost a child’s self esteem and provide them with opportunities to learn to problem solve and manage their friendships. However, creating a balance between the two will go a long way towards creating a fun and relaxing summer for both parents and kids.