Why I won’t be over scheduling my children this Summer.
Its’ summer, the holidays have started and parents I know are divided on loving the holidays versus finding them really difficult. I sit in the middle; running my own business gives me the flexibility to spend time with my children and also work, but I do find the transition difficult and I am sure I am not alone; that constant push and pull between making money and spending time with your children. It can be such a challenge, with advice coming from all directions on what you should or should not be doing. I don’t know about you, but often I am left bewildered and feeling a little bit guilty.
I always believe that parents should do what feels right for them, their family and the situation. There is no right or wrong answer, just what works for you.
For me, I choose to let the holidays really be a holiday and if we aren’t going away, which we are not this year, I generally take each day as it comes depending on the weather. My children are now 19 and 15 so things are of course a little bit easier.
I was talking to a client about my summer plans the other day and she looked at me shocked and said, “What, you mean you have no activities planned for your children over the summer?” When I answered no, a concerned look grew across her face and she said, “But, aren’t you worried your children will fall behind at school? I mean that’s what happens if they spend the holidays not doing anything isn’t it?” I smiled and continued to tell her the real truth behind the research and the reason I won’t be over scheduling my children this summer.
The research that started the wave of the over scheduled child says that children from poorer social economic backgrounds fall behind during the summer because they are not learning anything new, unlike their counterparts from middle class backgrounds. This research led to the formation of the Kipp Project, which runs schools in deprived areas. These schools have much shorter holidays and grades have improved.
The over scheduling of middle class families is referred to as constructive cultivation, meaning these parents are more likely to push, have high expectations, enroll their children in extra classes, ask about homework and attend Parent Teacher Association meetings. So in theory it sounds that enrolling your child in every activity over the summer might help them, right?
Well yes, that may be true; however here is my take on it.
I see countless of young people who are miserable, stressed and have growing mental health issues because they just never get any down time. I believe our children need to be free as much as they need to be encouraged and that we should never risk their mental health in order to push them to achieve more. Yes, have high expectations but balance this with enough time to just do nothing.
So it your teenager lies in bed all day it’s OK, they won’t turn into a loser. If they choose to play computer games it’s fine, it doesn’t mean they will fail in life.
What I do with my children is take on a theme that we explore during the Summer, a theme they choose that links into the future they want. This year my eldest is finishing her second book and my youngest wants to explore successful female film directors.
When they are bored, or have perhaps not ventured out their room for three days, I suggest we do something related to that theme. So for example, we might watch a film directed by a female, research some female directors, watch videos of some of them speaking, etc: Anything that inspires them. I leave my children to decide when it is the right time to do some learning; of course when they were younger I had to drive this a little more.
So if like me you are a parent who doesn’t over-schedule your child, please don’t feel guilt; it is fine to give them some time off.
And if you are a parent who has your child in lots of activities, good on you, but please make sure they have some down time too.
What do you think? Do we over-schedule our children too much nowadays?