In light of Stress Awareness Month, The Lily-Jo Project invited me to explore how stress affects family relationships and mental wellbeing.
Reflecting on my own family life and experiences, I remember the year that each of my children was involved in a gymnastics class, plus several other after school clubs. It was very overwhelming!
Thankfully, despite the many pressures to squeeze in as many after school activities as possible, it turns out that there is such a thing as “too much”.
The team at The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds cautions:
“By teaching teamwork, providing social connections and helping kids find their passions, activities are indeed enriching. However, like Tylenol, more is not better—not only does more not bring down the fever better or faster, too much is toxic. Similarly, losing the balance between scheduled enrichment and relaxed family time is harmful, too—to your child’s sense of self, individuality, creativity, imagination, equanimity and health”.
In addition to the mental health risks associated with packed schedules, doctors have also noticed the physical effects that occur when extracurricular adventures become too intense. For example, the rise in youth sports has also coincided with a tenfold rise in childhood ACL tears. Head injuries in high school sports are also very common, and it is not uncommon for a young athlete to be pressured to perform anyway, at less than their physical best, lest they miss out on a recruiting opportunity.
Finding Balance: Key Strategies to Utilize with Your Family
So, we know that losing that precious balance between encouraging a child’s passion and giving adequate time for rest and rejuvenation can be dangerous. What can we, as parents, do to help? How can we set healthy boundaries?
Here are a few key strategies to try in your household.
Learn how to say no
Sometimes, just say no. Well-meaning coaches and peers will undoubtedly pressure you to say “yes,” but if saying “yes” means putting the physical or mental health of your family on the back burner, just say no.
Be a good example
It’s hard to preach the dangers of overscheduling to our children if our own lives are constantly running at a frantic, unsustainable pace. Make sure you are setting the precedence of making time for yourself to heal and be in a good mental space.
Strive for balance, not perfection
Maybe your child really does want to play their favorite sport at a high level. That’s fine. However, this may mean that they must say no to other things. This helps them learn how to strike a balance between being committed to a sport and staying physically (and mentally) healthy.
Embrace relaxation and doing “nothing”
Even though it may feel “weird” to slow down, it’s important that your children understand that it is okay to do nothing at all. Sometimes, just sitting, talking, and enjoying each other’s presence is where you need to be.
Be aware that each child is unique
What works and is balanced for one child might be totally overwhelming or not enough of a challenge for another – and that’s okay. As a parent, know that it’s okay to adapt schedules, boundaries, and strategies for each child depending on what works for them.
Further Resources on Balancing Schedules and Managing Stress
If you found this article helpful, check out these additional resources on managing stress and schedules.
- Blog article Teaching Your Kids to Recognize Signs of Stress: 5 Practical Tips
- Blog article The Long-Term Effects of Stress on Your Family…What Can You Do About It?
- Blog article How to Self-Care: Lily-Jo’s Story
- Free resources from The Stress Management Society
At The Lily-Jo Project, we understand that parenting and working with youth can be challenging. That’s why we offer a variety of parenting and mental health content on our website (www.thelilyjoproject.com) that can be of assistance.
We also offer a public community on Facebook that provides a forum to seek support with the day-to-day questions and concerns that go with raising a family. I moderate the group, and we would love to have you. You can request to join here – looking forward to seeing you there!
About the Author: Brandy Browne
Brandy Browne is a care coordinator for a local mental health agency in the United States, as well as a family coach and blogger for UnStuck (www.unstucks.com) – her family coaching service aimed at helping families develop positive habits and breaking the cycle of generational trauma and poverty.
Her education is in early and elementary education, and she also has a masters degree in parenting and child/adolescent development. Brandy is a wife to her high school sweetheart of fifteen years, and together they share three children, aged ten, seven, and five. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, writing, and distance running.