Quiz: Is Your Kid Overscheduled?

Let’s talk about the zombie effect. You know what I mean – when your kid looks like one of the walking dead every minute of every day. But just like zombies don’t speak, your kid doesn’t bring it up. So how do you know if they’re doing too much or just going through a hormone-charged, super-tired phase?

For starters, ask yourself these 10 true or false questions. There’s no right or wrong. You aren’t being graded. You’re just trying to help your kid take back their childhood, if that’s what they need to do. So, true or false:

  1. You’re not sure if that’s a zombie or your kid who’s walking out of art club.
  2. You sometimes wonder where your kid’s sweet personality went. You may even find yourself saying, “Don’t mumble,” “Stop slouching,” “What’s with the attitude?” more than you used to.
  3. When people ask you what you do, your immediate response is, “Oh, I’m a taxi driver, shuttling my kids to all of their after-school activities!” You find yourself scheduling more car pools, since you haven’t yet figured out a way to be in three places at once.
  4. Your kid (or you) feels really down when they don’t score a goal all game … and the feeling doesn’t go away after a few minutes.
  5. You don’t know what family dinner is anymore. Your family meals consist of hitting up the drive-thru or wolfing down the snacks you put in your bag this morning and forgot to eat because, oh yeah, you haven’t stopped driving the kids all over town.
  6. You find yourself thinking that your 7-year-old may need this programming class for her future career as an engineer, your 9-year-old’s interest in cooking won’t go anywhere if he can’t take the Thursday class (because that’s your only open slot), or your 13-year-old won’t make it to the World Cup if you can’t squeeze in the extra Sunday practice.
  7. Your 6 to 13-year-old isn’t getting 9 to 11 hours of sleep or your 14 to 17-year-old isn’t getting 8 to 10 hours of sleep. They’re scrambling to finish homework before class or getting home so late that they’re eating dinner when they should be in bed.
  8. The kids can’t get the recommended amount of daily exercise (1 hour or more per day for heart and muscle health, according to the CDC), because they’re spending too much time at chorus practice or jazz band.
  9. You never stop worrying that they won’t get into college if they don’t have five distinct interests and millions of volunteer hours logged.
  10. Your kid’s only source of socializing outside of school is at scheduled and/or paid activities. You haven’t seen their best bud from down the street in weeks, maybe months.

The Moment of Truth

If you answered “true” to four or fewer questions, you’re doing something right. Your kids may be zombies at times – they are, after all, still overflowing with hormones – but they’re not total goners. Keep it up!

Now, if you answered “true” at least five times, that’s a red flag. Your kids could probably use a break. Keep a close eye on their eating habits and sleep schedule. If either gets really out of whack, it could lead to health problems later. Make eating well and sleeping enough a priority.

Find yourself not just answering “true,” but also blurting out “TRUTH!” seven or more times? You need to talk to your kid. Stat. There’s a good chance they aren’t getting the nutrition and sleep they need to grow into strong, healthy adults. Not that you should leave right now to go yank them out of soccer practice kicking and screaming. Start with a little re-evaluating.

Reality Check

We moms are real people raising real kids. We’re human. We want them to have every opportunity, but let’s be real. It’s perfectly okay if they aren’t the best swimmer or the best photographer or the best knitter by age 12, much less all three of those things.

A balanced life makes for healthier, more resilient human beings. If you can’t remember the last time your kid opened up to you, it’s time to re-evaluate. Kids need down time. I’m not talking about down time on the couch with a bag of chips and video games, but down time to self-reflect. To think and dream, to figure out their aspirations and interests. To know who they are as kids, so they can become happy, introspective, self-aware adults.

They might say they’re bored. Don’t buy it. Hide that TV remote. Being “bored” is exactly what they need. It’s how they’ll learn to be creative. When they’re given time to explore their own interests and learn how to keep themselves occupied, they’re using their own intuition to make judgments and problem solve. Let them explore, fail and come up with their own ideas.

Pump the Brakes

I know, you get it. Your kids need a break. Here’s how to make it happen.

  • The ratings are in. Ask your kid to rate their activities to figure out what they like most. Maybe she likes dance more than soccer, and would really rather focus her time and energy on that.
  • Taking it easy. Replace a class with some time together. Go for a hike, explore nature or cook something different. Slow down and let your child discover his or her own talents and likes.
  • Imperfect is perfect. Let go of perfectionism: juice stains on a shirt, messy hair, mismatched outfits. It’s okay! Be picky with your priorities, so you and your kids can live life, not zombie walk through it.

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