Overly Busy Kids
Simple Tips to Help Manage Hectic Schedules
School ends at 3pm. Soccer practice starts 20 minutes later. Dinner is another Wendy’s drive through en route to dance lessons. Afterwards, there’s a yearbook club meeting at Starbucks and then it’s back to the house to do homework for the dual enrollment classes. Yep, the schedule for many kids these days can rival that of a Fortune 500 Company CEO. Their day starts well before the sun comes up…and ends long after it’s gone down.
But instead of making themselves rich, many of these kids are simply making themselves tired, anxious, and depressed.
Academics, extracurricular activities, sports, and personal interests can take their toll on a kid’s schedule. Football season bleeds into basketball season which bleeds into baseball season and so on. It’s not uncommon for a kid to leave the practice field of one sport to attend tryouts for a completely different sport starting the next week. Many schools and communities offer an endless buffet of clubs/groups that cater to almost every facet of life. Toss in a part time job, or college prep responsibilities such as community service, or something as simple as a personal hobby, and you’ve got a really, really busy kid.
And I haven’t even touched on entertainment media or screens….
As a former youth pastor, I’ve noticed at least three casualties that accompany crammed schedules: loss of sleep, a decrease in family time, and lackluster spiritual development. We know what impact sleep loss can have on grades. (My wife is an elementary school teacher. Almost every single day, one of her little girls falls asleep – and literally falls over onto her side – during circle chat time.) Of course, those setbacks are nothing compared to the dangers of drowsy teen drivers. While there is debate about the actual amount of time families spend together, some studies claim it’s not very much. And of course, a super busy teenager doesn’t have much time to study the Bible, pray, or serve others because of all the other demands filling the calendar.
Injecting Calm into the Calendar
The good news is, our kids – and our families as a whole – don’t have to be held hostage to hectic and hurried schedules. There are very simple ways to inject some rest and freedom into our calendars. Here are a few ideas:
- Assess your current family schedule to see if changes need to be made. Maybe your family has already struck a great balance with respect to activities, quality time, school, etc. But maybe you’re swimming upstream wondering why you never get anywhere. You won’t know until you examine what you’re doing and where you stand. The best way to shed light on this is to routinely ask questions of yourself and your family members. For example:
a. When was the last time you had a meal with your entire family?
b. Do your kids complain of having too much homework?
c. Are your kids’ activities fun…or have they become a grind?
d. When did you last take time off work (whether for a vacation trip or not)?
e. When was the last time you felt rested?
f. Has there been a significant change in your kids’ attitude, grades, health, etc.?
This is an ongoing conversation my wife and I have with each other. We’re always trying to figure out if we’re doing too much. She teaches. I’m a church planter. And our kid likes to play football, basketball, and guitar. If we’re not careful, we can easily take on so much that we don’t have time for friends, fun, rest, or each other.
- Identify what’s truly valuable…and make that a priority. It’s quite likely that you and your spouse may value something your kid cares nothing about, and vice versa. For example, most teenagers don’t think about debt-to-income ratio or life insurance policies. Then again, many parents don’t really try to keep up with the Kardashians. That’s to be expected. But it never hurts to know what everyone in your family thinks is important. Again, asking questions of yourselves and your kids will help you identify that. For example:
a. Why do you play XYZ sport? Or, why did you join that club?
b. Of everything you do, which do you enjoy the most?
c. If you had to cut something from your life (not school!), what would it be?
d. If you could add one thing to our family, what would it be?
Prioritizing means you’ll discover which things are super important – and which things are expendable. Now you’re ready for the final step….
- Don’t be afraid to scale back. Yep, “doing less” is absolutely an option! Sure, you may face some initial questions – and maybe even a few objections – but at the end of the day, we have to realize that there’s an end to the day! We only have so many hours! Knowing what’s important (through prioritization) will help us know where to scale back so we can invest more into what truly matters.
Our kids don’t have to lead rushed lives. It’s very possible for them to enjoy a balanced, happy, and healthy childhood/adolescence…but it will take leadership on our part as parents to help them achieve it.
David R. Smith
David R. Smith is the author of several books including Christianity... It's Like This and speaks to parents and leaders across the U.S. David is a 15-year youth ministry veteran, now a senior pastor, who specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.