“Finding balance is not an easy task in a society of great abundance,” said Dr. Brown, who is a senior consultant at the National School Climate Center. “Our interests and our desire to give our children every opportunity to succeed can inadvertently pull us into adding an ever increasing number of activities, dates, plans and obligations.”
Dr. Brown added, “Saying 'no' when demands become more than we can handle, or to children who may feel that they are supposed to be involved with everything their friends are doing to keep up, is not easy, and can be particularly difficult if our sense of self, who we want to believe we are or should be, seems dependent on saying 'yes' and doing it all.”
5 Tips to Avoid Overbooking Your Kids and Find Life Balance
1. Let your kids know that you care about them for who they are, not just what they can do. Children need to know that your love is not contingent on their achievements.
2. Remember that children do not have the same sense of time that you do. Part of growing up is being able to put things in perspective. There will likely be another friend, another team, another trip if this one does not work out.
3. Working hard at something you love to do is one of the best parts of life. It takes some of us a lot of experimenting to find those things we love. Kids need that free time to try new things, as well as the permission to give them up and try something else.
4. Some kids organize their time and find their interests with just a little exposure; other kids may need a bit of a push to try things that don't seem attractive or interesting (or may be threatening). The trick here is to be sensitive to individual needs and persistent in offering opportunities. If you need to be pushy, try to offer alternatives, so kids have a voice in what they will be doing. For example, some children thrive in competitive sports, and others may find their niche in hiking or dancing.
5. Remember to include exposure to helping others in your family activities. One of the best ways of developing empathy in our children (and ourselves) is to feel the gratitude that is expressed when we help others. This doesn't happen if we don't have the opportunity of interacting with others in need or whom we help. This can happen within the context of the family itself, as well, and doesn't necessarily require a formal charity event. Create opportunities in which children can feel that they have meaningfully helped other family members or the whole family accomplish something. The combination of caring, responsibility, feeling respected, and gratitude is a powerful stew that nourishes the soul.
“When we're overprogrammed and feel we can't keep up, or are constantly running on empty, stress can lead to anxiety, depression and take a toll on our minds and bodies,” commented Dr. Brown. "For children, this can surface in many ways – trouble sleeping, frequent irritability, aggressiveness with siblings, trouble in school, moodiness or frequent illness are all common signs that something is not right and needs to be explored.”
To raise children of good character, a combination of guidance, freedom, and support in the context of shared values should be provided. Most 21st century parents in America experience tension between their roles as providers, parents and having adult lives, a phenomenon that is widespread and not limited to one class or location. Reflection may be valuable, even if parents are not sure if they are overbooking.
“For most parents, laying the groundwork for their children’s happiness and fulfillment is a top priority,” said Leigh Ann Errico, CEO and founder of Wear the Cape and the kidkind foundation. “But it’s important that families step back and assess the hours being devoted to various activities on the never-ending list of possibilities. Downtime can be time well-spent.”
Errico built Wear the Cape (www.facebook.com/wearthecape) and established the foundation in 2013 after she came up short in her search for resources on kindness and character-building that would appeal to her own four children. The idea for the brand was sparked when Errico observed that the chance to wear a cape—the organization’s logo—motivates children to act like heroes, or “Cape Kids,” in order to live up to the symbol of honor. Wear the Cape is currently developing a school assembly that will show kids how they can make positive choices and rise above challenges like bullying.
Dr. Brown has partnered with Wear the Cape and the kidkind foundation to help parents nationwide foster good character in their kids. For additional resources from Dr. Brown and to learn more about Wear the Cape and the kidkind foundation, go to www.wearthecapekids.com.
About Wear the Cape and the kidkind foundation
Wear the Cape™ for all kidkind™ is the first global, mission-powered brand with the nerve to equate being kind with being cool. By coaching kids to be BETTER THAN THAT™, Wear the Cape breaks down barriers and brings people together—a world of new values prevails: It’s cool to be inclusive, tolerant and socially responsible. From its line of apparel and accessories, to its educational tools and its own non-profit the kidkind foundation, Wear the Cape sparks awareness and raises money to build heroes, a kid at a time. Wear the Cape’s products and resources are designed to create teachable moments between kids and the grown-ups they look up to with Hero Tags that tee up conversations about what it means to stand up and stand out; to stick up for the underdog; to do what’s right, not what’s easy. Wear the Cape donates 10% of its net profits directly to the kidkind foundation, and the rest is reinvested in the design and production of new products, as well as character-building educational materials for parents and teachers to help the kids they love. Wear the Cape’s work with communities and schools is helping mold everyday heroes that will create a kinder, better world for us all.