The glorification of people being busy has been a bugbear of mine for quite some time. There were certain people in my life that I would avoid because when I asked how they were, they would rattle off hundreds of things they had done in the past 24 hours that left me exhausted just hearing about it.
Unfortunately, this trend of busyness has extended to family life. I asked a friend of mine if her daughter would like to go out with us for a play-date and she said she had to check her 6 year olds schedule. I laughed and laughed thinking she was kidding. When I came up for air I saw her deadpan expression and realised she was serious. I’m a 36-year-old freelancer with two kids and I don’t have a schedule. This six year old had recitals, lessons, sporting commitments, birthday parties and who knows what else that she barely had time for a sit down meal!
I understand that structure and routine are important for children. And they benefit greatly from having extra curricular activities. It’s wonderful for their development, it boosts self esteem and allows for opportunities to grow and learn.
Much like every other aspect of parenting, it’s about fining the right balance.
“Parents need to teach their kids to balance human doing with human being,” said clinical psychologist Paula Bloom.
Kids need to know they’re not defined by what they do, she said. They need time to play, experiment, rest and figure out who they are.
So here are 5 tips to bring back some balance into your family time.
- Let your kids decide
There is no one size fits all approach to how many activities children should do. Every child has different interests, motivations and levels of energy. Have a chat about what their interests are, compile a list and be realistic about the plausibility of times, locations and costs of the activities.
- Schedule family time
Every single parent I know with adult kids tells me how quickly their childhoods fly by. Make time to enjoy each other’s company. Give each family member the task of choosing the family activity so everyone gets a shot at doing something they love. Be it a movie night, preparing a meal together or ice skating, have time together to form lasting memories.
- Have a plan
Working to deadlines my entire career, I am a sucker for planners, lists & calendars. Have a large family calendar and assign each family member a different coloured marker or post it note. Or you can have a whiteboard weekly planner where everyone can add what they’re up to for the week to avoid any clashes.
- Check in with your kids
Sit down with your kids and ask how they are going. If they are enjoying their activities, if they need some down time or if there is anything you can do for them. If they have attended back-to-back birthday parties or had a week long school camp, make sure they are not overwhelmed and aren’t afraid of asking for a week off.
- Let go of your forgotten dreams
When I was younger I dreamed of gracing the stage as a famous thespian. I caught myself not too long ago urging my daughter to take up acting. In that moment I realised I had to stop living vicariously through my child and embrace whatever her dreams may be. That meant giving her room to decide what she enjoys.