Young and Stressed-Out
Time to Be Children continued...
Gurian says that the current trend to have children scheduled to attend
near-constant structured activities -- soccer practice, music lessons, play
dates, gymnastics, volunteer activities -- can be fine for children who enjoy a
high level of stimulation. But for children who are less outgoing or have less
interest in social stimulation, a heavily scheduled lifestyle can create
"Many kids won't come to a parent and say, 'I'm feeling overwhelmed by
all this activity,'" he says. "Stress in children tends to manifest
itself physically. A kid with asthma who is under stress may start having more
attacks or more severe attacks. The same is true of allergies and stomach
Other warning signs of stress include sudden changes in sleeping habits,
increased irritability, and fatigue.
"Sometimes parents are overscheduled themselves," says Haller.
"And these parents may [without being aware of it] have a tendency to get
their kids into a lot of activities in order to cover for their own
Gurian agrees. "The parents' schedule and lifestyle has the biggest
effect on a child's needs," she says. "Parents need to be aware of
their own needs and pay attention to the fact that they are in large measure
forming or strongly influencing their children's needs."
Another motivating factor for overscheduling may come from parents' desire
for the child to be well-rounded. But it may be smarter in the long run to let
children focus on activities they feel strongly about rather than expose them
to too many activities.
"People are thinking about their kids' resumes earlier and earlier,"
says Haller. "They may be driven to more and more activities in hopes of
improving the child's ability to be accepted into schools. If kids truly want
to participate, that's great, but if there is resistance on the child's part,
then that is something to pay attention to."
In the end, what's overscheduling for one child or family, may be
underscheduling for another, say these experts. That's why this problem is
ideally suited to be worked out as a family.