Striking a Balance – Time Management for a New School Year

By Lisa Cossey, LCSW, Courier & Press, August 29, 2017

With most children already back at school for a new year, many families will find themselves in a struggle for the ages: wants versus needs.

Many families have difficulty finding a balance between work and play. But what if the struggle is between your child’s academics and their extracurricular activities?

It would be hard to find a parent who would say academics aren’t important, but at times it seems academics are in direct competition with having fun.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great for kids to have fun. They need active and sensory experiences to help them grow and develop. Extracurricular activities can also be a great way to develop skills.

But if your child’s academics are suffering or your child is upset, tearful, moody or more anxious than normal, it’s time to take a hard look at your family’s schedule. And if you’re spending more time in the car than you do in your home together as a family, it’s definitely time to step back and reassess your priorities.

 What is your child doing? Do they have one activity, or two, three or four? How many hours a day are they away from home?  How many nights a week is your family away from home? Is your child getting enough sleep at night?

A healthy balance is needed between school and extracurricular activities. At this point in the year, your family will soon have a good idea of how much homework your student is going to receive daily. Evaluate what your child and family can handle.

For reference, according to Dorothy Sluss, President of the U.S. Chapter of International Play Association, for every week of intensive activity, three weeks of less structured time and activity are needed to maintain a healthy balance for children.

If your child’s grades are not what they used to be, or if they are having more incomplete or missing work, it may be necessary to back off the wants and focus on the needs. It is OK to drop an activity due to falling grades or place a limit on how many activities your child is able to join to keep a healthy balance. Putting academics ahead of sports, scouts  and dance is OK too.

We have a culture that encourages and supports many sports and other activities. Encouragement is great. The issue is when children feel pressured to commit and join. It is OK to say no. It is OK to put your family’s needs first. It is OK to limit the number of activities your family is involved in.

If you have concerns for your child or need further ideas on how to strike the right balance for your family, please feel free to reach out to your child’s teacher or to the Youth First School Social Worker at their school. We are here to help.