Scouting, dance lessons, karate classes, chess clubs, soccer teams, swim meets—the list of extracurricular activities tweens may be involved in is endless. Too many structured activities can deprive tweens of the time they need to socialize with friends, spend time with their families, and have time alone with their books, music, and collections so they can relax, unwind, and decompress.
Signs that a child is stressed from being over-scheduled are usually obvious to others. If parents don't see them and continue to push their tween toward too many or the wrong involvements, it's usually because they have an agenda of their own. Perhaps they missed out on certain activities during their own childhood and are trying to live through their tween. Some parents are more interested in impressing other parents than in considering their child's interests. They enjoy the reaction they draw when they tell their friends that their child is a downhill racer or chess champion.
It's important to appreciate your child for who he is. Don't try to turn an academic star who wants to spend most of his free time studying into a jock who must spend most of his time working out, or vice versa.
If you're not sure whether your tween is over-scheduled, ask an honest friend's opinion. If you're still not sure, watch for the following telltale signs.
- He dawdles when it's time to leave for an extracurricular activity.
- He often loses his equipment, permission slips, and schedules, and you are more upset than he is.
- He requires continual reminders to practice or prepare for scheduled activities, meetings, and events.
- He forgets to relay information about schedule changes and his need for special equipment and supplies.
- He stays up late to finish homework or doesn't do a good job on it.
- He complains about not getting to do what he wants to do.
- He suffers from performance anxiety, getting terribly upset because he failed to score a goal or feeling ill before a recital or competition.
- He doesn't complain when transportation problems or scheduling conflicts interfere with a scheduled activity.
- Family members can't find time to enjoy one another because everyone is too busy.
Providing a variety of extracurricular activities so a child can be well rounded is admirable, but if your child doesn't enjoy them, there may not be a point to insisting he continue. Many tweens have very definite interests and don't take well to being forced to pursue someone else's idea of fun. A single extracurricular activity may be too draining if your child cherishes his time to play in the neighborhood and hang out at home.