Are Your Kids Overscheduled?

By on October 6, 2013

Hobbies and passions are important – so important, in fact, that I worry about kids (and adults) who have none. But sometimes we push our kids to do too much. Here are some signs that your child might be feeling overwhelmed by his or her schedule.

•    Your kid says: “I don’t want to go to soccer/ballet/piano lessons/squash/baseball/aikido/swimming anymore!”
•    You have – more than once – gotten angry and said: “What do you mean you don’t want to go to soccer anymore? I paid a lot of money for this, and I rushed all the way over here from my work/class/meeting in order to drive you there!”
•    Your child suffers from insomnia, headaches, stomach aches, anxiety, moodiness, mysterious aches and pains, or other ailments.
•    Your kid regularly has to stay up late to finish homework because he spends most of his after-school time on clubs and activities.
•    You’re tired and irritable and you dread having to chauffer your kids around town to their various activities.
•    You have to schedule your children’s play dates a couple of weeks in advance because they’re so busy.
•    Your kid doesn’t know what to do in unstructured social situations.
•    You don’t know what to do with your kid in unstructured social situations.
•    You feel peer pressure. “Everyone else in our building takes their kids to swimming – I don’t want to be the only parent who doesn’t.”
•    You anxiously scrutinize your child’s development (“My toddler isn’t speaking in complete sentences yet! Is he reading fast enough? Is she holding her pencil correctly?”) but your child’s teachers aren’t worried.
•    You’re trying to make up for what you feel you lacked as a child. “My parents never did anything for me, so I’m going to make sure my child has a fantastic childhood, no matter what it costs!”
•    No one can predict what the world (or the job market) will be like 10 years from now, but you seriously concern yourself with your second-grader’s college prospects and potential career paths (“If she starts taking Chinese lessons now, it’ll help her stand out when she applies to Harvard!”)
•    Your anxious, sleep-deprived, headache-prone high school student earns top marks, plays varsity sports, participates in civic-minded extracurricular activities, gets coached individually for university entrance exams, fusses over her resume… and regularly breaks down in tears.

If you think your kid might be overscheduled, why not pause and take stock? Ask your child how he or she feels about the status quo. If he could create his own schedule, what would it look like? If she could do anything she wanted to do, how would she want to spend her time? Even if their wishes are unrealistic, this is still good information for you to have as you make plans!

And ask yourself: could you tolerate it if your children had more free time – if they were, in other words, a little more idle? Or would you worry that they were missing opportunities, falling behind, stagnating, not excelling, et al ad nauseam? Whose life is it?

If you think cutting back might be a good thing, try stopping one activity for a couple of weeks and see how it feels. You can always restart it if your child wants to.

Scott Smith LCSW is a U.S.-licensed psychotherapist in private practice in Roppongi. He can be reached at

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