Are Your Kids Worn Out? 5 Signs You Need to Drop Some Activities

4 Minute Read

At first, it didn’t seem like much.

Abby wanted to play basketball, so her parents readily agreed. Then she wanted to be in the school club with her friends. One hour a week after school was no big deal. Then came the school play, and then student council. Before long, the usually happy-go-lucky Abby became grumpy and sullen and her grades began to slip.

When a teacher found Abby asleep during lunch, her parents saw it as a wake-up call. Things had to change.

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If you visit the average community in the U.S., you’re likely to meet kids involved in multiple activities: sports, music, lessons, clubs, hobbies, or church. Some kids thrive at this pace; others just aren’t wired to be three-sport athletes. And that’s okay. What matters is setting the right boundaries based on your child’s personality (and your budget).

What matters is setting the right boundaries based on your child’s personality (and your budget).

Signs Your Child Needs to Cut Back on Activities

Your daughter or son won’t wake up and declare, "I’m too busy! Make me quit something!" Children don’t always have the reasoning or language skills to tell you what’s going on inside. It’s up to you to recognize the signs that your child is overscheduled and overwhelmed. Look for these red flags:

1. The giggles are gone. If smiles and laughter have been replaced by anxiety and stress, it’s time to make a change. Yes, a kid’s interests change over time. But if your child doesn’t find fun in anything, you need to find out what’s stealing their joy.

2. Your budget is bleeding. Look at your family budget. If a huge amount of money is going toward activities—from gas money to drive to events to the equipment needed to participate—then something is off track. Set an amount you’re willing to spend on extracurricular activities and allow kids to decide which activities they want to keep.

3. Your car is your first home. You’ve seen the bumper stickers labeling a parent’s car as a taxi, but there can be too much truth in that—especially when you spend more time in your vehicle than in your own home. If your child’s room is cleaner than your car, then you might want to cut back on activities.

4. You can’t name your child’s friends. Remember when your daughter or son talked about her or his friends? Remember when they came over to the house? If you notice that your child doesn’t mention their friends much and nobody is hanging out in the den, there’s a problem somewhere.

5. You tell yourself the scholarship lie. For example, less than one percent of girls and just over one percent of guys go pro playing basketball. Less than four percent even play in college. And basketball is considered a major sport. If you’re pushing your kid to play a sport because you think it’ll mean a pro career, step back and rethink your motives. The same may apply to other activities, too.

Seeing one of these symptoms pop up isn’t cause for alarm, but if you’re watching these signals continue to occur, it’s time to take action—especially if those activities have hijacked your wallet. You’re the parent, so it’s your job to set limits and help your child decide what has to go. Yes, children need to learn to stick to their commitments, but not at the expense of their emotional or physical health. That lesson can wait.

We’re not saying that activities are bad. However, as parents, we are responsible for teaching our children how to become great adults, not to run them (or our family’s budgets) into the ground.

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