Today’s pace makes finding parental balance tough.
You as a parent seemingly have either the child who plays video games all day while eating chips and drinking soda or the child who has so many practices, lessons, and group and planned activities that you (and grandparents, like me) can’t keep track.
What’s best? If children aren’t busy all the time, will they become addicted to their phones, tablets, computer screens and TVs? Can you possibly balance between too much and too little scheduling – too much and too little free time? As Julia Child, reworking advice from American literary lion Ralph Waldo Emerson, once said of rich French food, “Everything in moderation.”
Scheduled activities like sports include known benefits like enrichment. In them, skills are refined, and children learn to work together, whether to score a goal or to earn a merit badge. Group activities, it bears noting, also boost self-esteem. Moreover, active children, like those who take part in sports, are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, and often, from sports and similar activities, learn life balance and time management better.
But how much is enough and how much is too much? There’s really no “right,” by-the-book amount of scheduled activity. Some kids thrive on more, and others on less. However, every child – and, for that matter, every adult – should enjoy free time to think, to daydream, to be genuinely bored and to be refreshed. Most important, during such unscheduled free time, children and their parents should make and take time to communicate, to be with each other to show their love. A child who knows he or she is loved generally will develop the personal power to overcome life’s inevitable challenges.
Finally, recognize that scheduled activities ought to be fun. Your child’s self-worth doesn’t depend on being the best athlete or earning the most badges. Also, for everyone’s sake, encourage your child to work hard and succeed, but don’t live vicariously through his or her endeavors.
Dr. Joseph Kahn is president of Mercy Kids (mercykids.org), an expansive network of pediatric care dedicated to meeting the needs of every child, every day.