Overscheduling and Anxiety Go Hand in Hand

anxious, busy, overscheduled

As summer waned, I sensed a lot of urgency. Families hurriedly got in vacations and that last bit of fun before they got down to business. With the school year approaching, everyone was anticipating the hectic pace of academics and extracurricular activities. Thus, the anxiety that decreased over the summer threatens to begin anew.

It is no secret that American families overschedule their children. Countless kids play multiple sports and participate in everything from Scouts and religious groups to band and student council. Older kids often have jobs. The lure to get them heavily involved is strong because, as parents, we want our kids to have every opportunity. Moreover, American culture now insists that we must be doing and accomplishing something in order to have worth. Don’t believe me? Just hint to someone that they’re not busy and watch the fur fly. Or ask people to give the antonym for busy. Many people will say lazy because relaxed (the correct answer) is a foreign concept.anxious, busy, overscheduling children, helicopter moms, stress

Given this emphasis on accomplishments, overscheduling seems to many parents like the right thing to do. However, the side effects to this are disturbing. Physicians are seeing a rise in overuse injuries in younger kids and mental health professionals are reporting an increase in anxiety at earlier ages.

As a result of doing too much, kids are becoming burnt out, less creative (because creativity takes time to develop) and are losing out on quality family time. Families may all be together in the car as they rush to practices, games and events but doing homework and eating dinner on the fly are not conducive to good relationship building. Kids also are not getting the opportunity to just hang out, breathe and let the day soak in.

So what is a well-meaning parent to do? We’ve all read the advice about avoiding overscheduling:  set limits on the number of activities and allow time to talk, play and just be. However, this is easier said than done and every family is different.

In our household, there is a two activity limit, we ensure a certain number of hours are spent at home and a sit-down family dinner most days of the week is a must. We also try to focus on what’s important and remember that if we spend all of our time doing, the meaning and enjoyment may escape us. Thus, spending some time savoring what we do – talking, thinking, and remembering – makes them that much better.

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