Think back to the time when we parents were children. Hopefully we can still remember those days because we had something special that many of our children do not have today – free time. We were able to spend most afternoons inventing games at home, riding bicycles, playing with our siblings (if we liked them!) and, at times, just doing nothing.
Now granted, times have changed and there is more pressure on our children. Life has become more challenging, and the words free time might be completely foreign to our children, let alone us parents.
Burnout is becoming an increasingly popular occurrence amongst children and we are seeing the symptoms of fatigue, frustration and sometimes even depression. Our children are involved in so many different activities with which they are not always able to cope, and this should get our attention. After-school activities can dominate our children’s lives and while these activities are not wrong in themselves, I believe the balance is skewed. Our children are going straight from busy days at school to additional activities and are often getting home after 6pm. By the time they have eaten and done homework it’s already 8-9pm. There has been no free time to just wind down from the day and no family time to discuss the day. Inevitably, this leads to less time for sleep as well. All of this results in stress and eventually burnout! Our children are not meant to cope with this kind of pressure and this is why more and more of them are showing signs of burnout and we need to do something about this.
Here are a few suggestions that may assist us in this process
- Create a balanced program for the week for your child. Try to leave at least 2-3 afternoons open with no activities planned.
- Don’t let your child decide on how many activities they want to do. Make decisions as the parent that will benefit your child holistically.
- Talk to your children about how they are feeling and if necessary, make some changes to their schedules.
I am well aware that this is not an easy area to change in our lives. We have become so used to being on the go all the time that we have accepted it as the norm. I encourage you to change this mind-set and create some free time for your children. Let them experience the joy of rest and unstructured play, and I believe you will have healthier, happier children.
“Balance comes in the moments when you stand up for the life you truly want for yourself, by making choices that align with that.” – Jena Coray