Well, we say summer, but really this topic is applicable to any time of year with children. Whether you have multiple children participating in one activity each or one child participating in a couple activities, it can feel like trying to crack a locked safe to figure out a schedule that works for everyone.
Before you get to the point that you’re stressed out from too many activities, take into consideration the following factors when selecting activities for yourself or your kids:
- Your Schedule: Unless you have a nanny, neighbor or grandparent who is more than willing to help with shuttling your children to different events, it’s really up to the you, the parent, and your available schedule. Apart from work, you need to determine how much time per week you want to spend at your kids’ activities.
- Time Commitment: Once you know what hours you have available, you need to determine how much of that available time you want to spend attending activities. Knowing the location (for drive-time) and the length of the activity will help you determine your overall commitment. Consider a longer activity less often during the week versus a shorter activity that meets often. Many also forget to commit time for them. Yes, you as the parent also need time for activities you want or enjoy, such as an exercise class.
- Number of Activities: Many times we get stressed because we overbook and don’t have any down time. Our children don’t need to be in every structured activity. Choose one per season and consider one yearlong. This could be an instrument and summer soccer or Taekwondo and baseball. The yearlong activity should be something they truly enjoy and want to continue with while the seasonal are those that have peaked interest, but aren’t sure if they want to do long-term.
Let’s say you’ve done all of the above, but you’re still stressing out and not finding the time to get everyone done that you want – at home, work, etc. Follow these tips to help alleviate some schedule stress.
- Divide and conquer – Take turns with your spouse or significant other for kid activity attendance. One week it’s your turn to drive and attend; the next week it’s their turn. This not only gives you, the parent, a break, but it also gives your child some more one-on-one time with each of you. If possible, big events or games should be attended by all family members for support.
- Prioritize – Summer is hard because of vacations. Prioritize which practices, games and tournaments are most important and don’t sweat the others if your children can’t attend. Missing a practice or two won’t affect them and you can always practice at home.
- Drop an activity – As long as this is beneficial for the health of your family, it may be best to drop an activity. No stress on your child or yourself is worth continuing with. If your child is showing signs of disinterest, continuously complaining about not wanting to go, it may be time to take a break. It could be for a week or two or the rest of the season.
At the end of the day, activities should be learning and growing opportunities for your children that they enjoy. Interests come and go. Listen to your children and use common sense. If you’re spending more time in the car and at activities than time with your family, it may be time to reconsider how many activities you’re committed to.