She gets up at 6:00 am to get ready and eat breakfast. Sometimes, if she has a few minutes, she might finish off an assignment that she didn’t complete the night before. After school, which includes dance and choir, she meets her track coach at the track for a two-hour pre-season training session with the high school track team. Twice a week, she even adds an hour at the gym. She gets home at 5:00 pm, sometimes 6:00 pm, and has just enough time to do her homework, eat dinner, and do a couple of chores before her bedtime at 9:30. That is a pretty full day for an adult, but she is only 12 and in 7th grade. Is this all too much for her? Or is she ready to have this many spinning plates to juggle?
Today, our kids are busy, there is no doubt about that – but how busy is too busy? And how do we balance all that our kids have and want to do so that they are well rounded but not too stressed out? Here are seven tips for parents of busy kids to keep things in check and keep those spinning plates spinning.
- Find what they love
As parents, we want our kids to try and learn new things. We want them to find their passions and follow them – but throwing them into every activity is not always a wise decision, and it can often be a waste of time and money. If your child shows interest in extracurricular activities, pay attention to which ones excite them the most. Start there, and then expand or adjust depending on what your child enjoys and is good at.
- No matter how busy they are… Everyone has to eat
Studies show that children thrive when they have bonding time with parents and siblings. It can help them deal with the stress of a busy day and give them a chance to stop and breathe. But when do they have time with everything that’s going on? Dinner time… everyone has to eat. Having a scheduled sit-down dinner time is the perfect opportunity to find out how your children are feeling about their schedules and to plan out the week’s activities.
- Setting realistic expectations
Sometimes, kids will have to be pushed into trying new things; other times, they want to jump in with both feet and try everything. At these times, we need to step in as parents and set some realistic expectations. Kids can’t always determine how much they are able to take on, so it’s our job as parents to set those boundaries for them.
- Look for the signs
Even with all our ducks in a row, all our time scheduled out, and everything being a smooth-running machine, it can still be too stressful for a kid to take on too many activities. Usually, there are clear signs if your child is stretched too thin. Keep an eye out for those signs and try to be encouraging but firm about what their limits are. That is one of the best things you can do as a parent.
- Learn to say “NO”
Often times, we know our kid’s limits before they do. We know what they can handle, not just physically but also mentally, and we know when they will be in over their heads. But at the same time, we don’t want them to lose out on opportunities. This is when being the adult can be hard. Sometimes, especially with particularly driven kids who willingly take on more than they can handle, we need to just say, “NO” or “Not this time.” They may be upset at the time, but in the long run, they will be happier.
- Free time is a must
The older your kids get, the busier they will be. Juggling several different classes as well as the homework involved, then adding sports and other extracurricular activities to the mix, life can get messy. We need to make sure that through all of this, our kids have time to themselves to think, daydream, or process what they learn from day to day. Even something as little as half an hour to just not think about school, sports, or dance can make getting back on task easier.
- Don’t forget about YOU
We are often so busy trying to make sure that our kids don’t miss out on things that we forget about ourselves. We want our kids to have every opportunity, but sometimes we just can’t time warp or create a wormhole in order to be in two places at once. If you have more than one child, this can be an even more difficult problem to solve. When considering what activities your kids take part in, ask yourself a few questions about your own availability before you commit to it.
It is a crazy plate-spinning feat sometimes, but it can be done and done well if we just take the time to figure out a few things, and sometimes make a few hard decisions. A balance can be found, and with that balance, our kids will be happier and more successful.