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Activity Stress

by Ronald A. Rowe | September 13th, 2013 | Elementary

don't b l8When it comes to socialization and elementary age children, parents today face a challenge that did not exist for previous generations. The proliferation of school clubs, church activities, youth sports organizations, and for-profit entertainment groups children and parents have more opportunities than ever before. Here, at the start of the new school year, there is a dangerous temptation to overextend.

Band sounds good. Football sounds good. Baseball, robotics, Advanced Placement, Spanish, and Boy Scouts all sound like great opportunities. And with a blank schedule, it is oh-so tempting to sign up for all of them at the beginning of the school year.

But then homework sets in. The band concert and Boy Scout Jamboree fall on the same night. You’ve got to rush through homework to get to football practice. It can all get to be too much in a very short amount of time.

Sometimes you have to say no to a good thing in order to preserve something better. The odds are not good that your child will grow up to be a professional football player, no matter how much promise you see in him or her at six years old. The primary goal of joining the football team, and any other elementary activities, is for your child’s developmental benefit. New and varied social settings bring out wonderful opportunities for our children, but too many and too varied can overwhelm them and have the opposite effect.

Overwhelming children with too much can cause a backlash that drives them to the couch. Children with no free time can snap and grow to resent all the activities that are supposed to be fun for them. It can also put a significant strain on parents, especially in homes of two or three (or more!) elementary students. As the older children hit middle and high school, transportation issues become even more cumbersome. If you don’t choose extracurricular activities wisely, it will eventually create undue stress on the whole family.

To be clear – I’m not suggesting that you avoid extracurricular activities altogether. I am a strong proponent of getting our kids involved in something bigger than themselves, something that will get them away from the TV and video games. Children should be challenged and take the most advanced classes of which they are capable. But ease in slowly. It is always easier to join something new later down the road than it is to quit an activity once engaged.

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