How to keep children from getting overscheduled during summer vacation

Busy schedules can be exhausting for families

By Meaghan St Pierre - Producer

ROYAL OAK, Mich. - School is letting out, and that can trigger a major change in routine for families.

Parents want children to get the most out of their summer with sports, camps and other activities, but the break from class can also be an opportunity to slow down a child's schedule.

It can be exhausting for parents and children to keep up with a family's busy schedule. Parents need to listen to their children to make sure they're not overscheduled.

Brooke, 8, is trying tennis this year, and she already plays violin, enjoys rock climbing and wants to try dance.

"She is at a good age to try things; to find out what she really does want to do maybe long-term, so I want to give her the chance to try things," Royal Oak resident Julie Demchak said.

But Demchak said her daughter has to choose which activities to try, because she can't do them all.

Demchak works in early childhood education. She said down time is important and watches for signs that her child is overscheduled.

"I look for clues," Demchak said. "If she seems extra crabby, maybe we're doing too much."

"You really have to stay focused on who your child is and what kind of personality and what kind of individual your child is," said Dr. T. Jan Caison-Sorey, medical director at Blue Cross Blue Shield. "Not everybody can do everything. Not everybody can do what the other child does."

Caison-Sorey specializes in pediatrics.

"Children being overscheduled is a lot of times reflective of the parent," Caison-Sorey said. "It's a reflection of the parent and what the parent thinks the child should be doing. Sort of comparing the child to what other children are doing."

Fatigue is a sign that a child is overscheduled.

"Is your child exhausted at the end of the day?" Caison-Sorey asked. "Is their head on the table when they're supposed to be eating? Are they concentrating enough to actually stay up academically? Is there any down time for them to relax? Eat without rushing? Speeding from one event to another in the car, are you really doing the best for your child if you have them overscheduled?

"Then, the other thing is, just from a clinical perspective, I think about the physical toll that it takes on children. It's a psychological toll, too."

Caison-Sorey recommends talking to children about their schedule and listening to them about their concerns. Parents should put children in activities where they can be successful and spend quality time with them.

"The summertime should be about being a parent; spending as much time (as you can with your child)," Caison-Sorey said. "Bottom line is don't have such a structured life that there's no time for you to engage with your child. Take them to some place where they love to go have fun. It doesn't have to be far, but spend time."

If you feel like your child is overscheduled and it's time to drop something, make sure the child is part of the conversation, experts said. When they decide they don't want to do something anymore, it's a decision they have to own.

Caison-Sorey said to remember that children aren't shaped by cookie cutters. Each one is different, and parents have to take the time to learn who they are, what their skills are, what they're good at now and what they're not good at yet.

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