- Extracurricular activities are extra. School work should be a top priority. If your child's work is suffering because of outside commitments, don't hesitate to make continued participation in sports or clubs contingent on maintaining a minimum standard of academic performance.
- Finding time for homework when there are after-school practices and lessons can be challenging. But it's important to set aside a fixed period every day for it. Encourage kids to get homework finished early, before after-school activities kick in. Another idea: For after-school play dates, build in some time for study.
- Make sure your actions with your child convey a balance of school and play. Spend as much time with your child going over schoolwork as you do in helping to prepare for a school play or practice for a ball game.
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- About this time in the school year, schedules can start to careen out of control. Make sure your family time doesn't suffer for it. Consider setting aside a family or relaxation night. During this time, emphasize that no one has friends over and everyone is home for dinner. You don't even have to do anything special. It could just be a night to order in dinner, turn off the phone and Internet and hang out together.
- Make time for .... nothing. In our multi-tasking culture, some may see unstructured time as wasted time. But downtime is when families connect, friendships take root and kids have the opportunity for independent play and self-generated projects.
- Over-scheduled kids can be overstressed and unhappy. Check in regularly with them on time management and schedules to make sure they're not feeling overwhelmed.
- Watch for signs of burnout - irritability, sleeping problems, difficulty settling down, managing feelings, falling grades. It may be time to re-evaluate how your child's time is being spent.
WHAT TO DO
- Most young kids are joiners, so they may sign up for lots of activities - only to find that their interests grow and change. Parents don't want to encourage a culture of quitting - but at the same time, it's important for young kids to try new things, and switching activities is normal.
- Older kids who realize that they can't follow through on an activity for any reason should talk with the adviser or coach: Be direct, polite and explain the situation. Sometimes it's just not the right match for you or it's too time-consuming. Perhaps you can participate in a less time-consuming way or rejoin later. You won't be helping yourself or the group if you frantically do homework during a competition or fall asleep during practice. Saying "no" can be the most mature and responsible thing to do.