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Finding downtime for the overscheduled kid

Between school and after-school activities and their full

Between school and after-school activities and their full social lives, it seems kids are overscheduled and don’t catch a break. (Credit: istock)

Sometimes I think my kids lead busier lives than I do. Between school and after-school activities and their full social lives, it seems the kids are overscheduled and don’t catch a break.

Smithtown psychologist Dr. Deena Abbe agrees children today are overscheduled. She says they “should be limited in their after-school activities. Although these activities are enjoyable and often serve a purpose in the kids’ lives, it’s important that they not have activities that interfere with their homework or family time. I usually tell parents that they should pick one or two activities [religion is considered one activity] a week per child. If you don’t teach your children how to relax, study, entertain themselves when they are younger, it is significantly more difficult when they are older, and can lead to stress, depression, anxiety” and other problems.

Leslie Weidenman, a psychologist at The Groden Center, a Providence, R.I., school and treatment center for children and adults with autism and other behavioral and developmental disorders, says, "The key to scheduling kids is balance, making sure that the child is still enjoying the activities and not exhibiting signs of stress/overload” such as “an increase in fatigue and crankiness, a decrease in grades, suddenly being more moody or anxious.” 

She says, “Kids should have some downtime where they can play with friends and be with family without structure.”

So how much downtime do kids need? Weidenman says there’s “no magic number of hours or activities that is right for a child as each child [and family] will have a different tolerance as well as a different level of endurance.” She says, “Structured activities can be very helpful and offer kids an opportunity to experience new things and meet peers. However, too much of a good thing can have a down side.”

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