As a parent, I used to always struggle to understand the right balance of activities for my child. I used to trust my instincts and my child’s interests in scheduling different after-school classes or activities for him. But during the initial days of the pandemic and the series of lockdowns, as all of us are staying at home, we were kind of jumping from one class or the other to engage my child. In the mornings, my child had his online school classes and in the evening, he was attending his gymnastics online classes. Then in the afternoons, he used to pick some new hobby that he got interested in and used to join another set of online classes. Though it’s not overscheduling in the normal parlance (as he is spending six hours attending various classes) as his school itself operates for 7 hours. But pandemic has changed the definition of overscheduling the kids. So, I would discuss the dangers of overscheduling your child, whether in online classes or offline classes.
What is overscheduling:
Overscheduling means in plain simple terms, jumping from one activity to the other, without any break time or downtime for oneself. When the person is not getting any time to relax and enjoy just being with himself, then we can say that he is overscheduled.
In pre-pandemic time, though the child attends school for about seven to eight hours, the child gets time to unwind and relax while playing with his friends and peers. Kids are more social beings than we can think of and all their growth happens only when their peer group is around. Hence attending school or attending a few activities with their friends never used to drain them.
But now in the isolation, when the child stays completely indoors, he definitely needs a lot of downtimes or free play to be on his own to relax and unwind. All the stress of not being able to see his friends and play with them is already taking a big toll on them. And to top, it, having to attend a lot of online classes will definitely bring their mood down. Then as parents, we all will have one common complaint that he is not able to concentrate or focus better during the online classes.
Signs of Overscheduling the Child:
Do you remember the flaring short tempers, dropping shoulders, pure exhaustion, sleeping in the car while traveling from one class to the other in your child? These are the starting signs of being overscheduled. Here is the detailed list of being overscheduled.
- Increased tiredness and laziness
As the kids are moving from one activity to the other either in the physical form or in the online mode, they get tired pretty easily. Especially when the kids are learning in the online mode, they need more downtime to internalize their learnings.
If this downtime is not available and they are being rushed to complete one assignment after the other for the online classes, they become totally exhausted.
- Mood swings
Most of the time, the kids would not be able to express their tiredness or exhaustion. The only way, they feel that we would hear them out is when they start acting out. That’s the reason why we can observe the flared tempers, mood swings, and a lot more when they are tired beyond reasonable limits.
- Increased physical complaints like stomachaches, body pains, and headaches.
If the mood swings have not gained our attention, then the next step the kids would use the physical pains as the excuse to skip the classes. They tend to find a lot more reasons to skip the classes or leave the classes in between.
- Not sleeping regularly
The child’s regular sleep pattern gets disturbed and he sleeps at odd times and hence wouldn’t fall asleep during the regular times.
- Decreased interest in academics and extra-curricular activities
Due to the continuous fatigue, we can see a sharp decline in his academics and his scores would be taking a nosedive in the downward direction. The activities in which he is interested him earlier would become boring all of a sudden and the child feels like withdrawing from most of his favorite hobbies and activities.
- Decreased interest in social interactions
All the child wants to do is relax and sleep instead of talking to friends and family members. Hence the family time and his social time gets reduced. All these interactions become a thing of the past.
Dangers of Overscheduling your Child:
Overscheduling leads to excess burnt-out and causes a lot of problems in the longer run. Children are also not immune to these problems. So, here is the list of the dangers of overscheduling your child.
- Early Burnt Out:
An overscheduled kid grows up into a burnt-out teen. When the young adult, in teenage, has to take important decisions about his career and academics, this over burnt-out kid would try to become invisible and wouldn’t want to take a hold on his life. He starts looking for the support of his parents and loses the decision-making power. This will continue well into adulthood as well. He will not be able to stand up for himself.
- Kills creativity and playtime:
The downtime gives chance for a lot of free play for kids. The free play time improves their imagination and creativity. These are the most important tools in building critical thinking skills in the kids. When the child is overscheduled, it will kill all his creativity and imagination as he tends to become robotic-like in jumping from one activity to the other.
- Increased anxiety and pressure
When the child starts attending multiple classes, the sheer pressure of completing various assignments/projects and home works on time itself will build the pressure in the child. So instead of enjoying those classes, he will start worrying about the pending stuff from the previous classes. This robs the joy of learning in kids.
- Falls prey to Unhealthy eating habits
As a typical human being, when under stress prefers junk food and drinks, the child would also get addicted to junk food. Overscheduling leaves no room for physical activity. That way, the kids get introduced to the unhealthy lifestyle at an early stage itself.
- Reduced Self-Esteem and Confidence:
As the child struggles in completing all the deliverables despite being exhausted, he wouldn’t be giving his best. That automatically reduces his self-confidence levels. He will start comparing himself with the others who are performing better than him and his self-esteem would take a big toll.
Tips to avoid overscheduling the child:
So, now you might be wondering how to come out of the dangers of overscheduling your child?. What are the tips to implement, so that you can have your happy and energetic kid back? Here are few tips that can help you in this process.
- Prioritize their calendar: As a first step, discuss with all the family members including your child and consider what are his true interests and passions. Based on that input, priortize and cut short all the unnecessary classes for him. Ensure that there is certain down time scheduled every day.
- Establish the Ground Rules: Depending on your kids passions and schooling needs, he has to attend few classes mandatorily. That needs to be made very clear and should become the ground rules of the house.
- Have a fixed family time or downtime daily: As a family, start practicing spending some time together, sharing atleast one meal together. The family that eats together always stays together.
- Encourage the personal development and enrichment: Encourage the child to use the down time to enrich himself with whatever topic/hobby that interests him. There should be an enrichment plan in place, otherwise in this digital world, its easy for the child to become gadget addicts to while away their time.
- Shrug of all the Peer Pressure: Peer pressure and the pressure to compare your child to the other can come from all the directions. As a parent, we need to be wise and not bow down in front of all these pressures.
So, in our story, after we realized that my child is looking duller and started acting disinterested in his passionate areas, we had taken a call to take a break from all his activities other than the school. Nowadays, he just attends only his online school classes and one extra language class, twice a week.
We took this decision two months back and in one month, we can see a lot of improvements in his disposition. His appetite for knowledge is back, and he has become a more peaceful and joyful child. He has started owning up and completing all his assignments on time, without any nagging from us. As a parent, that’s what we all want, isn’t it? So, please let me how you are avoiding the dangers due to overscheduling your child in your house in the comments below?