Bill’s older son had a close friend who was set on a starring role in an upcoming community musical. He was intent on getting that part. Or at least his mother was. Trouble was, he was also on the swim team, in dance and taekwondo lessons, engaged in piano instruction, and serving as an acolyte at his church. This was in addition to legislative council, the student newspaper, and the drama club at his high school. Bill sometimes wondered if all those activities were his choice or the choice of his parents. The child seemed to be under a great deal of stress.
Finding The “Why”
Recently we heard that the prevalence of social media has reduced even further the practice of contemplation. Things move so quickly now that pondering is seen as a disability; a short list of activities for your son or daughter is viewed as a weakness.
While it is important to encourage your teen in some beneficial areas where they are reluctant, it is also important to review their list of activities and honestly assess the motivation and purpose of the involvement. Are we pushing our son to be the baseball player we couldn’t be? Is our daughter trying out for the lead in the play because of our desire or hers? It’s a fine line but as parents, we need to occasionally stop and sort out the value and the motivation of our kids’ activities.
Some teens engage in only the most basic activities and avoid any challenges or opportunities that have the potential to reap rich rewards. Others, however, become overextended through their own drive or the pressure of their parents. This hyperactivity can lead to negative stress for the whole family.
How do you figure out what to encourage and whether your son or daughter is involved in too much or for the wrong reasons?
Try asking. See how they feel about their daily life. Watch for trouble signs like inability to finish assignments, a drop in homework or increased irritability.
Try the percentage approach. Help your son or daughter divide the day and see if homework, extracurricular school activities, community service, etc., can be assigned loose percentages or time periods that will help provide some limitations and organization.
Quality trumps quantity. Instruct your daughter that even though everything seems important and interesting, choices need to be made. Reassure your son that you’re ok with him cutting back on some activities. Stress the importance of “down time.”
Overall, while you can play an important role, we think it is important to leave it to your teen to sort out daily life. This provides the opportunity to learn how to manage time and set priorities. As we have found with our kids, our support is then key to open communication and achieving a balanced, successful life.