By Rachel Lewis
Very few people will question the importance of extracurricular activities in the lives of children through young adults. These pursuits provide many benefits for students including social, academic, and physical ones. They also provide qualities and skills that many parents wish to impart to their children including cooperation, team-building, leadership, discipline, and many others as well. Now, extracurricular activities are seen as necessary for students to get into college and to build their resume. The problem comes from the fact that many students seem to be way over-doing it.
The New Normal in the U.S.
Over-scheduled teens have become the new normal in the United States. Statistics on this problem are rare and hard to come by. In fact, the last ones are almost a generation old. Many parents, counselors, and therapists have noticed an increased amount of teens who are overtly over-scheduled. Also, many time management studies will show that even without a plethora of extracurricular activities, teens are struggling to fit thirty plus hours of stuff into a twenty four hour day. Some studies have found that teens can have practice before school, an eight hour school day, after school activities or club meetings that last into the evening, and then come home for multiple hours of homework. This schedule doesn’t even include time for everyday activities like sleep, eating, personal hygiene, being social, or family time.
Teens are being told to cram so much into their days that it can actually compromise their mental and physical well-being. They are becoming tired, stressed, depressed, and injured more frequently.
The pressure to succeed in all of their activities only adds to everything they are feeling.
Talk To Your Teen
I know that now may not seem like the best time to talk to your child about their schedule, but any time is a great time. Now works especially well as the school year is winding down and summer activities are being scheduled. Talk to your teen about what they are really interested in and what they want to pursue. Make sure to look for cues from them about how they are feeling and doing. Are they enjoying themselves? Are they only doing this because they feel like they have to? Are they tying their identity into their performance? Are they getting enough rest? You know your teen and can tell how their activities are affecting them. Talk to them and figure out what is working and what isn’t.
Parents can also make a large difference by modeling the behavior they want their teens to emulate. Prioritizing sleep, healthy eating (even eating as a family), tech free time, regular exercise, and down time can help students see the direction they should take. Finding a balance between life and work is a life skill that needs practice. Starting your teen on that course now will only benefit them later.