I find myself in an interestingly precarious position with my 8 year old. I’m all about free time and time for kids to be kids, but he is often bored (despite the emporium of toys that is his room) and his energy levels are through the roof – I mean if you can’t sit still to watch a cartoon or even in your seep you have issues. So I opted for extracurricular, usually sports. Two which think are life skills (Karate for defence and swimming to….well stay alive and float). The third sport was always to improve is team building skills so it’s soccer in the summer and hockey in winter. But I have also considered putting him in non-sport stuff like coding or guitar lessons (we tried it when he was 4, might have been way too premature). So the question is when are a lot of extracurricular activities too much! Here is my unofficial gauge:
- If you see him tired, unfocused or losing focus on important things like homework, sleep or –play in general might be time to pull back. This one is a bit subjective and much like everything else really depends on how much can your child handle depending on their personality. If they are getting bullied in those activities that’s another problem to fix with the instructor and should not be the reason to stop going, but I mean if they truly hate the activity itself.
- When after months they continue to dread going to the activity and you start using it as a threat for punishment. In most cases these are meant to be fun or at least bearable and not a negative influence on their lives (they probably already have enough of that – most of it you’re not likely aware of). So go easy and realize that they will probably not be the next Mozart, Whitney Houston (singing lessons) or Michael Jordan. Which brings me to another side note……stop living vicariously through them!
- It’s starting to take over YOUR life! Yes, you are a parent and driving them around is part of your job, but when that becomes a big burden on your day to day, ad starts stressing you out and affecting your other responsibilities – maybe it’s time to hold back a little. No need to feel guilty that you made them miss out on life’s opportunities, they can still pick things up when they get older, talent and passion know no age.
- As a follow up to the previous point, costs and fees that star to become a big burden (that includes equipment and uniforms) may be a good alert to have you either reassess the important activities or help you filter them out so that you’re not overstretching, especially financially. This may be an obvious reason but it’s surprising how many parents have a skewed sense of priorities (i.e. saving for their University education is probably a better option than those dance lessons).
In the end I think kids will do well in life even if they don’t do every activity under the sun – and if they are happy at home and keeping themselves busy (not video games), who knows they might be writing their next best seller or fine tuning their art skills without you knowing upstairs in their rooms! No driving around required.