By Mimi Doe
The common refrain these days seems to be, "Whew....life is crazy. We are so busy." It's almost a badge of achievement for some parents to breathlessly describe their on the run lives--as if they're giving their child a leg up by being on two travel sports teams, the school's team and a little strength training on the side.
Describing their busy schedules seems to validate parent's efforts and suggest that they are giving their children stellar advantages. Phoning their middle schooler's soccer coach demanding more play time or taking charge of their child's off-season training assures them they are on top of this project called "parenting."
We are busy parents micro-managing busy kids. We love our children and want to provide everything we can to see them empowered, and successful. In the midst of all this business, however, kids are burning out both physically and spiritually. What their souls crave much more than another winning game is the loving presence of an adult who listens and cares deeply. They need less pressure to perform and more open-ended time to ponder. Rather than being a project their parents strategically plan, with achievements measured on a corporate-like timeline, kids yearn for a relationship with their mom and dad.
Just because our own lives might be frenetic with work, family, and the endless tasks of daily life, doesn't mean we should program our kids into that rhythm. When we find the balance between offering our children healthy sports opportunities and running them ragged, our own pace inevitably winds down.
When we create a manageable schedule for our kids, we eliminate some of the exhaustion and stress that is consuming far too many of them. Sports do help children learn and grow, but too much of a good thing can hurt.
It is possible to create balance within your family's everyday life, even with children who participate in sports. The essential ingredient is balance. Here are five tips for balancing your children's sports schedules with your family life.
1. Children's individual temperaments need to be taken into account when planning sports involvement. Determine the activity level that keeps each of your kids on an even keel. Some children need the energy a group provides and thrive on the dynamics of team sports, while others are sourced and refueled by taking a quiet walk around the neighborhood or shooting baskets on their own. Observe your children, listen to them, and follow your own intuition.
2. Schedule a family meeting and come equipped with a large master calendar.Examine the logistics of your family's schedule, in terms of budgeting time, money, and carpool stamina. Talk about everyone's current commitments and goals for the upcoming season. Then, fill in the calendar using a different color marker for each child's obligations. It's not possible to back out of current commitments, you want your children to learn follow through, but you can get a handle on what must change next season!
3. Designate one night a week or month as Family Night. Rent a movie, pop some popcorn, light a fire, and just be together. Make sure that nothing comes in the way of your standing Family Night.
4. Our culture doesn't honor the value of free time, but we must. Kids aren't comfortable with quiet as they grow older because they aren't used to it. It's of critical importance to create space in our young children's days for unstructured, open-ended, quiet time.
Make sure the weekends are a time to rest, daydream, and recharge for the week ahead.
Mimi Doe is the co-founder of www.TopTierAdmissions.com and the award-winning author of five books including "Busy But Balanced." Her free newsletter has more than 50,000 subscribers from around the world. Mimi has a Master's in Education from Harvard and has appeared on Oprah.