Tennis lessons. Dentist appointments. Piano recitals. PTA meetings. Field trips. Tutoring. The list of things the modern parent needs to keep up with and schedule seems to be never-ending.
So why do we do it? Because extracurricular activities enrich the lives of our kids, making them well-rounded individuals. But sometimes it just becomes all too much, like booking the soft play for 9am on a Sunday after a raucous Saturday night on the tiles. If we overschedule, everyone becomes anxious – the children doing activities they don’t enjoy, the parents finding time to support each and every activity.
Attaining the balance is tough. We want our kids to have ample opportunities, but we also want to make sure their well-being is in tip-top condition. Treading the fine line between encouraging your kids’ interests and pushing them too far is like knowing exactly what drink should have been our last on Saturday night. Sometimes we get swept along without thinking of the repercussions.
So, how do we know we’re doing it right? Well, each kid is different. Some want to do it all, while others don’t want to do much at all. Whether you’re worried about their lack of enthusiasm or trying to manage their expectations, having a well-defined schedule to follow is key in making sure everyone in your family is on the same page.
With many kids having super busy and colorful lives, keeping everyone on task and happy can be extremely overwhelming. To introduce calm to the chaos, follow these tips and tricks to make sure both you and your children are content with their timetable, so everything can go off without a hitch.
For each family, the demands are different. Maybe you’re a single parent and summer camp helps with childcare? Maybe your kid is falling behind, and tutoring is helping develop their academic weakness? These kinds of extracurricular activities can’t and shouldn’t be eliminated. When you’re creating a schedule for your kids, start with the essentials and build the rest of your child’s timetable around them.
It's simply impossible for kids to compete in every single sport/activity. Make a list of optional activities for them to choose from and ask them to pick a couple of their favorites – ideally, the ones they have a genuine passion in pursuing, not ones they think they ‘should’ be participating in for social status or future college admission.
If you have more than one child, try to coordinate lessons so you don’t have too much going on in one day and everyone has room for some downtime.
Some extracurricular activities require much more dedication than others. For example, if a traveling sport puts too much strain on your family’s time and finances, look for options that are less intense. If your child really enjoys that particular activity, do some research to find classes that don’t require as much commitment.
During the school year, if kids partake in more than one extracurricular activity a day they can very easily burn out. Sticking to one a day should help keep them on track in all other aspects, but if you do find that a single daily activity begins to affect their grades, sleep, or mood, try limiting those classes to weekends to restore the balance.
Most games are seasonal, which means you’re not limiting your kids to just one sport, but if they are doing too much it can be both physically and emotionally damaging. If they are devoted to playing only one sport all year round without a break, be aware that they will be more prone to suffering from injuries from overusing those muscles.
If your kid is adamant about playing just one sport, consider taking a season off so they can take a break from the wear and tear. Use this time to try other types of activities that aren't as physically demanding so they have time to rest and recharge.
Whether you favor a digital calendar or a classic wall calendar, make sure each person in your household adds every single one of their events and appointments – not forgetting social engagements! Once everyone in your family is aware of each other’s diaries, there’ll be less room for scheduling nightmares and it will be much less likely things will get double-booked.
If you do have a physical calendar in your home, make sure it’s kept in a central location that all family members frequent daily e.g. the fridge. The calendar is for all to access, and this way everyone can keep on top of their schedule and notice when someone (or the entire family) has too much on their plate.
If you’re still one for an old-fashioned wall calendar, think about switching to a digital app on your tablet or phone. This way, everything will automatically get synced and you’ll be able to access your calendar wherever in the world you are.
When choosing the right app, do some research first. Many on the market are designed to be user-friendly for both parents and kids, with some specifically catered to larger families that allow as many users as you need. You’ll also find that many digital calendars have a function that enables reminders. They'll either pop up as a notification on your phone or will send an email reminder, helping you plan your time efficiently.
It’s important to make sure that when you glance at your calendar it doesn’t look like a load of gibberish! You ideally want everyone in your family to see the calendar and know what each entry says and means. A great way to do this is to implement color-coding. Most digital calendars will automatically color-code each event in terms of type and/or family member, but you can use different color highlighters and markers to color-code your wall or dry erase calendar too. This will make it much easier to seamlessly coordinate all aspects of your family’s lives – work, chores, homework, etc.
One system that can work well for manual calendars is to designate each family member with their own color and highlight accordingly, or highlight according to the type of activity, or which grown-up is responsible for transport/attendance – whatever works best for you and your family.
If you’re not one for digital calendars, remember to set your own reminders! It’s one thing to put everything down on paper, but it’s another to remember when each engagement is coming up. Reminders save the day by helping you be better prepared.
Your kids who are at reading age should be actively involved in the planning of the family schedule. They can add their own events and help formulate the day-to-day. This will give them the opportunity to build good time-keeping traits while also allowing them to contemplate the flow of their day.
For pre-readers, introduce the calendar to them and talk about fun events coming up that they might want to attend. If any of your kids have a tablet or phone, add them to your family’s online calendar. You can set up reminders to help them stay on track, take on some responsibility of their own as well as creating healthy habits.
Although calendars are essential when you have a busy family, don’t forget to communicate on the weekly flow of your household. Reminders might be helpful, but nothing beats one-on-one communication, which gives your kids an opportunity to be honest about how they’re feeling about their extracurricular activities. Whether they’re enjoying them or struggling, by checking in, you'll gain transparency of whose schedule is working for them and whose needs adjusting.
You might want to think about implementing weekly family meetings to discuss the week's upcoming events and add any forgotten or last-minute plans to the timetable. If that’s not up your street, you might want to briefly go over the kids' schedule for the following day while you’re tucking them in at night. Either way, the goal is to keep both them and you on track.
Although having a packed schedule can help your kids become more social and provide them with memorable experiences, make sure it’s not too tightly packed so you can still enjoy some chillout time together. If you’re all constantly busy with activities, it may take an emotional toll on the family and it goes without saying: your family’s wellbeing comes first and foremost.
If you find yourself struggling to find time for each other, block out particular days and evenings for family time and date night, so they don’t slip under the radar. After all, they should be as much of a priority as the tournaments and check ups.
For peace of mind, you can store all your kids’ extracurricular activities along with days, dates, times, and payment methods on your myFRP account under the Household Management section.
You can store other things concerning your children on your myFRP account too. Things like daycare, before and after school programs, their school details, their top three friends and their parents’ contact details as well as any allergies, dietary requirements, and medical conditions – for your own safekeeping, or in case you need to share them with another caregiver.
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