Young and Stressed-Out
"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.
"The family needs to sit down and have a discussion about what
activities to keep and which to drop," says Gurian. "A discussion like
this can be very fruitful in terms of identifying the problem, talking over
solutions, and implementing the best one for the whole family."
Gurian says that key to this process is parents guiding children to see
themselves as valuable.
"It's important to stress to kids that their own value rests in who they
are, not what they can or can't accomplish."
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD, August 22, 2002