Education Matters

5 Negative impacts of over scheduling children

Posted by Trinity Grammar School on Apr 3, 2018 6:00:00 AM

5 Negative impacts of over scheduling childrenSuniya Luthar, a psychology professor at Columbia University, has done extensive studies on the role of extracurricular activities in children’s lives. She says, “It’s good for kids to be scheduled. It’s good for them to have musical activities, sports or other things organised and supervised by an adult.” Outside activities make a child well-rounded. Not to mention it provides them with skills such as playing music or speaking another language which have been shown to improve learning in general. Sporting activities can help to keep children healthy both physically and mentally.

A 2008 report “The Overscheduling Myth” found that children who have scheduled activities outside of school are better able to maintain balance in their lives, have higher self esteem and lower rates of drug and alcohol use over time. These children also tend to spend more time on homework and other unscheduled activities, which on the surface, seems counterintuitive.

Limiting children’s use of devices is becoming an increasingly difficult task for parents, with activities providing a structure where screen time can be avoided. Interestingly, screen time is the primary predictor for the desire for more free time among children, according to a report published by the American School Health Association’s Journal of School Health. It says that those children who reported having three or more hours of screen time per day, were three times more likely to desire more free time. It seems the more free time children have, the more they desire, particularly if they are spending a large portion of that time in front of a screen.

You can of course over-schedule children – too many activities could be detrimental to your child. Determining just how many activities are enough to provide the benefits without the negative impacts is the tricky part for parents. The Journal of School Health also reports that children who choose their own scheduled activities are more likely to feel stressed about activities than those who made decisions about activities in conjunction with their parents.

Whichever way you look at it, it’s important to ensure that any scheduled activities remain fun for your child.

So how much scheduling is too much? The key is in keeping a close eye on your children to monitor for signs of activity related stress. Here are five negative effects of over scheduling children:

  1. Your child doesn’t have much down time
    Children need down time where they simply have nothing to do – this means no devices. While parents will cringe at the thought of having to deal with cries of “I’m bored”, and nagging for time in front of a screen, periods of boredom can actually be beneficial for your child. Boredom breeds creativity, and it is at times of inactivity that great ideas can come. Downtime is also essential for cognitive and social development. For Christians, down time can also allow your child to be quiet in the presence of God in prayer.

  2. Your child loses interest in things that once brought joy
    If your child loses interest in things that he used to love it can be a warning sign of activity-stress and being over-scheduled. Of course, children grow out of certain things, and this is nothing to be concerned about. If however, your child no longer wants to do things that he used to find fun, such as spending time with cousins, bike riding, going for treats, or seeing friends it could be a warning sign.

  3. Loss of focus at school
    A sure sign your son is over-scheduled is when his school work starts to deteriorate. As your child progresses through his schooling, the demands of academic study will steadily increase. Findings reported in the Journal of School Health showed that the greatest predictor of activity-related stress was the reported number of hours spent on homework. Students who averaged at least two hours on homework per night were nearly twice as likely to report frequent activity-related stress. It’s a good idea to evaluate your child’s extra-curricular activities as the level of school and homework increase to ensure he doesn’t feel overwhelmed or burdened.

  4. Your child is withdrawn and quiet
    If your child is stressed and feels unable to cope with the demands of school and out-of-school activities it can lead to anxiety and depression. Key indications that there may be a problem are if your child is quieter than usual and has become withdrawn from family and friends. If your child was once a happy, loving and social child, who becomes sullen, aloof and spends increasing amounts of time on his own, it can be a sign of anxiety or depression. Too many activities can be a contributing factor. It’s useful to understand how to recognise depression or anxiety in your child.

  5. Your child is grumpy and tired
    If your child is constantly complaining of feeling tired then he may be trying to manage too much. Remember that if you as a parent are feeling run ragged with managing before and after school activities, it is likely that your child is feeling the same way. If the tiredness also comes with irritability, and headaches, your son may just need some more down time. Another sign is unexplained aches and pains around the time your child is due to participate in an extra-curricular activity. It may be his way of letting you know it’s all too much.

At Trinity Grammar School our mission is to provide a thoroughly Christian education for boys, imparting knowledge and understanding of the world we live in, recognising the importance of spiritual qualities in every sphere of learning.

Trinity’s Pastoral Care guidelines focus on the fundamentals of good parenting — providing both care and discipline — enabling boys to grow into self-confident, trustworthy and resilient young men. Combined with an ongoing partnership between the School and home, your son will thrive in a consistent, caring and nurturing environment, supported by a dedicated team of counsellors and psychologists.

To learn more about the Trinity difference, and why we are one of Sydney’s leading schools for boys, download our Prospectus.

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Topics: Parenting tips, Trinity difference, Raising boys, Pastoral care, Co-curricular activities, Mental health