Helping Kids Manage Their Busy Schedules

Parents aren’t the only ones who struggle with managing hectic schedules. School children are finding it more difficult to squeeze in all the things they want to do each day.
The beginning of the school year is a great time to help your child make a time management plan, says Regina Melchor-Beaupré, PsyD., a licensed clinical psychologist affiliated with Baptist Health.

Allowing children to participate in a variety of sports and activities is beneficial, she says. Many activities offer valuable instruction, teach teamwork and discipline, and boost self-confidence. However, these pastimes should also be fun while not sabotaging wellness and peace of mind.

“It’s important to determine if a child’s extracurricular activities increase anxiety or decrease anxiety,” Dr. Melchor-Beaupré says.

An overloaded schedule — which can include school, homework, sports, after-school programs and clubs, music and art lessons, jobs and volunteerism – can become overwhelming and leave kids with little time for relaxation. Unfortunately, today’s society views downtime negatively. In fact, over-involvement often is promoted – and rewarded.

Social media doesn’t help. Facebook often is full of boastful posts highlighting personal successes. Kids tend to compare themselves to peers who seem to gracefully manage everything that comes their way. As a result, kids may feel pressure to overextend by joining every club or volunteering for every cause, Dr. Melchor-Beaupré says.

Children are taught that successful people take chances, set goals, work hard and always do their best.  Some parents encourage – or push – their children to participate and excel in the same sports or activities that they did. But some parents are so busy they don’t see that their kids are stressed, Dr. Melchor-Beaupré points out.  

“When I treat children, I treat entire families,” she says. “An active schedule often is built in to a family’s lifestyle. The ability to manage multiple activities differs from person to person and family to family.”     

Some children and adolescents feel overwhelmed with a “normal” level of activity or responsibility. Dr. Melchor-Beaupré suggests that kids write their schedule on a daily calendar and post it.

“When children see each activity and then check it off, they get a sense of accomplishment,” Dr. Melchor-Beaupré says. “They become less overwhelmed, and begin to realize that they can successfully manage their schedule.”

In contrast, some kids are running on fumes, she points out. These kids often will exhibit signs of stress like irritability, changes in sleep or eating habits, repeated illness or drop in grades. The bottom line: If there is stress and unhappiness, something should change.

Learning to balance social and academic pressure, along with a busy schedule, is a challenging but essential life skill. Here are some ways you can help your children achieve a healthy balance:  

Set the example for your children. Be sure you model healthy levels of work, recreation, family and community involvement.

Help your children prioritize choices, and limit the number of activities on their schedule. Provide your children with guidance, encouragement and support.

  •  Help your children create personal activity calendars. 
  • Create a family calendar so each member can see the “big picture” when considering new activities.
  • Carve out one-on-one time with each child.
  • Maintain a few “traditions” that bring your family together to touch base, like dinner, breakfast, a tennis match or movie night. 
  •  Hold a family meeting to improve communication, decision making and activity planning.
  • Get organized.    
  • Set regular mealtimes and bedtimes.
  • Ensure your children are getting enough sleep.
  • Encourage your children to sometimes just “chill.” And then join them.

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