In today’s hustle and bustle world, it’s easy to get caught up in everything we have to do. Work, running errands, cleaning the house, and everything else that needs to be taken care of contributes to a hectic lifestyle. But that’s what being an adult is about. Doing what you need to do. Nowadays though, our busy society has bred busy kids. Children of all ages are involved in a countless number of activities. Whether it is sports, music, academic clubs, part time jobs, or volunteering, many kids have just as much on their plates as their parents do.
Overscheduling is an issue, for everyone. Being an adult with a lot to do is tiresome and difficult at times. But it’s manageable enough. With kids, it’s not so simple. The stress and anxiety of having too much to do will take a more serious toll on children.
It’s important to recognize the signs of being overscheduled. There are symptoms that any child who is suffering from overscheduling will display. Not all symptoms may be present, but knowing them will help tip you off if something is wrong.
Five signs of overscheduling
They’re always tired
This one is a bit obvious, but it’s a serious sign nonetheless. Constant exhaustion is a common occurrence in overscheduled children. Because they have so much to do on a daily basis, their sleep cycle suffers. Before I joined Hotels4Teams, I was a teacher. I saw it firsthand. It’s evident when a child comes into class tired. I would sometimes ask a student what time they went to bed, and the answers were shocking. On more than one occasion, a student has told me they were up to 1 or 2 am doing homework.
Why were they up so late finishing assignments? They had other engagements after school, whether that was sports, a club, etc. They would finally get home around 9 pm, eat dinner, and start their homework by maybe 10 or 11. The late nights add up after a while. Even for a kid. It’s nice when you have busy kids on your hands, but the line between manageably busy and overly busy can get blurred all too easily.
They never just do nothing
You don’t want your kid to be a couch potato. A sedentary lifestyle is not healthy. However, if your child never seems to have a moment to just sit down and relax, that is a huge indicator that they have too much going on. Think about days where you have a lot to do. I know for me, what gets me through a long day is thinking about when I’ll be able to unwind a bit. Keep an eye on if your kid can fit in time to relax at some point during the day. When they never seem to be sitting still, you might have to consider reevaluating your child’s schedule.
Their physical & mental health suffers
The combination of anxiety, poor sleeping habits, and constant activity can lead to both physical and mental health issues. Your child may complain of frequent headaches and irritability. They might be more grumpy and restless. Parents may notice their kids’ eating habits change. Some might turn to food as a stress reliever and overeat. Others could lose their appetite and begin to eat less. Both are signs that something is wrong.
Another mental concern to watch out for is your child withdrawing from social situations. The tendency to isolate oneself can be a telling sign. More time in their room and less hanging out with friends and family is not good. Being uncharacteristically needy in specific situations is another behavioral change that raises red flags. In a situation where there is no set agenda, a child that experiences little to no free time will look to an adult to tell them what to do. Overly busy kids won’t know how to handle unstructured time. This is because they aren’t accustomed to it.
They lost interest in friends and hobbies
One of the most alarming signs that can occur in busy kids is losing interest in things that they previously enjoyed. This stark difference in behavior is one of the more noticeable symptoms. It can be something as big as not hanging out with friends anymore, or something as small as not watching their favorite shows on TV. When a major shift in interests happens, you need to take notice and do something.
Their grades drop
When busy kids stretches themselves too thin, things start to suffer: performance in games, effort in clubs or at work, and grades in school. The main priority of every child is being a successful student. Like I said before, I had students who stayed up extremely late to finish homework. Most kids who are overscheduled are great students. However, motivated or not, a decline in academics is going to happen in the majority of overscheduling instances. Once the grades get worse, it’s time to take a look at everything else going on.
How to solve the problem
Sit down and talk
Don’t wait for your kid to come to you. If you suspect that they are overscheduled, ask them about it. A lot of the time, kids are hesitant to speak up about quitting something because they don’t want to disappoint their parents. Initiate a conversation and make it clear that it’s okay to quit something if your child is stressed from over-involvement. Physical and mental health is paramount. Activities can be dropped. Obviously you don’t want your kid quitting everything, but if their to-do list is 14 pages long, it’s time to shorten it.
Some kids might not talk as openly about the situation. When this is the case and you suspect your child is dealing with overscheduling, turn to coaches, teachers, and their friends. These people may very well be able to provide you with the information you need.
Figure out what’s important
As you talk with your child, one of the most important topics to discuss is what activities are important to them. Settle on a number of activities that your kid can handle. Go through each one and figure out ones they are passionate about and can’t give up. Establishing priorities makes the picture clearer. It gives your kid a plan to follow. Quitting activities they enjoy isn’t easy, but in the long run you and your child will see an improvement.
Teach healthy ways to deal with stress
Part of what makes overscheduled kids such a serious problem is the fact that children don’t always know how to deal with stress in a healthy manner. Teaching them effective, healthy strategies to deal with stress can solve many of these problems. Check out this helpful article for some stress reducing tips.