Why is it important to talk about how to avoid overscheduling your family? Families are very busy these days and having unscheduled time where children can create, imagine, and play has become less common.
This can be harmful for the emotional health of your child and your family unit.
The first step is to look at your schedule and assess it’s current state. Here’s one way we even did summer vacation time differently to get in the creative free time our kids need.
How to Avoid Overscheduling your Family
We put our walkie talkies in our backpacks and canvased the neighborhood pretending we were Davey, Jack, and Kim (characters in Cloak and Dagger for those of you who haven’t seen the 80’s classic).
I was 6 years old and my siblings were 8 and 10. This is the kind of thing we did in our free time and walkie talkies the size of bricks were the extent of our handheld technology devices.
Clearly, a lot has changed in 30 years.
Is Your Family Overscheduled?
Here are some signs that your family may be overscheduled:
- rarely home
- cranky/not well rested
- running out of time to do homework
- always rushing out the door to the next thing
- feeling disconnected from family members
Did any of those resonate with you? Our kid’s schedules tend to mimic our own.
If you feel too busy and overscheduled, chances are your child may be experiencing that as well.
Yes’s & No’s
Every time we say yes to something, by default we are saying no to something else. Each yes for a commitment, activity, or event means no to being at home relaxing, imagining, creating, or playing during that time.
On average our kids spend about 6 hours in school per day. Depending on the age of the child, they have about 5-8 hours between school and bedtime. When you add in extracurricular activities, it’s possible that you only see your child for a few of their waking hours.
There is value in extracurricular activities. Learning new skills, being a part of a team, and getting exercise are all good things. The point isn’t to avoid everything completely, but rather to be intentional in what you choose and find the right balance.
Every family is unique so the appropriate amount of activities will look different, and there are varying seasons in life. Typically, younger children have fewer scheduled activities, but they tend to increase as they get older.
My daughters are currently 6 and 8. This year we have opted out of all after-school activities.
My youngest is in kindergarten so I wanted her to be able to get used to the longer school hours without adding anything additional to her schedule.
This is a personal choice, so have discussions to determine what will work best for your family in your current season.
Priorities and Values
What are your family’s priorities and values? Plan a meeting where you can sit down and talk about them. Do you value time together as a family but have found that your busy schedule has prevented it?
If so, it’s time to reassess your commitments and decide what needs to change.
I created a priorities assessment worksheet to help you through the process. Evaluate each of your current activities and why you are doing them. Make decisions together about what stays and what goes in order to reflect your values and priorities.
We live in a results-driven culture. You can measure the outcome of spending time learning new sports or skills. It is more difficult to measure the outcome and value of free time, rest, and using your imagination.
“When you’re clear about your purpose and your priorities, you can painlessly discard whatever does not support these, whether it’s clutter in your cabinets or commitments on your calendar.” -Victoria Moran
Once you’ve freed up some space in your calendar, it is easy for technology distractions to steal your time. To prevent tech from taking over, create boundaries and limits with technology.
Consider having technology free days or hours and keeping devices away from the table at meal times. It’s much easier to be consistent with limitations when you start them early on and model them yourself.
While there are advantages to technology, there are also disadvantages. They can be overstimulating and don’t let children explore their creative potential.
With free play, children can be as imaginative as they want. There aren’t any limits to what they dream up. In this kind of play, they also get to include siblings, friends, and maybe even occasionally you as they role play.
Encourage creativity and fostering development through imaginative play. Don’t be afraid of boredom. When given the freedom to be creative, kids will figure it out. It’s healthy for them to not have constant stimulation and for them to navigate through what to do when there is nothing scheduled or planned.
The reality is you only get so much time before kids are grown and out of the house. How do you want to have spent that time?
You are their first teachers and have an important role and influence on their lives, but will your impact be the same if you don’t spend much time together?
If family meal times are important to you, make them a priority. What were the positive memorable moments in your childhood? Think about how you can incorporate similar experiences in your children’s lives. When you avoid overscheduling your family, you allow more time and space for those moments.
Trust your instincts as you align your family’s schedule with your values and priorities (use the priorities assessment worksheet to help you). Don’t live a life by default. Instead, choose to be intentional with your time and protect your yes’s.
Our culture tells us to focus on immediately measurable outcomes. However, happy memories that shape your life are not easily measured.
Having margin in your schedule not only allows you to say yes to the great, but it also gives you the freedom to simply rest, relax, or have an impromptu dance party. Some of the best memories are made when nothing is planned.
If you want to experience 31 days of
Julianna Poplin is a professional declutterer/organizer and writer at The Simplicity Habit. She loved her husband, daughters, and dirty vanilla chai tea lattes. For more information on living simply and intentionally, check out her blog.