Behavior & Development • Aug 31, 2016

Creating a Healthy After-School Routine for Your Child: How to Avoid Overscheduling

Dr. Kelly Ross, a pediatrician with Washington University at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, discusses developing a healthy after-school routine for kids with hectic schedules. Kelly is a working mom with teenagers who are involved in several extracurricular activities, and she has spent a lot of time looking at the research to make sure her kids are not overscheduled.

The task of creating balance in your child’s life may seem impossible with school and so many options of extracurricular activities. You want your kids to be involved in activities outside of school, but you also want to make sure that they are not overbooked and stressed because they have too much on their plate. As a parent, it is important to find a routine that works for your child as they take on more extracurricular activities in different stages of life.

There are a couple things to consider when assessing the appropriate number of activities for your child:

  • What’s their temperament? Every child is a little different when it comes to the number of activities they can take on without being overwhelmed. Some kids thrive on having a highly scheduled life with something going on every hour. Other kids need to be encouraged to participate in activities and may be more easily overwhelmed by such a busy schedule. Gauge your child’s activities with their individual temperament in mind.
  • What is their age? Four year olds having an activity every day when they don’t have homework and don’t have a certain time they have to wake up every single day is fine. As kids hit middle school and high school, balancing activities becomes more of a challenge with added homework. Extracurricular activities are good, but remember to keep a balance in your child’s life. A general rule of thumb for middle school and high school is to pick two activities that your child really enjoys.

Technology can be a great solution for allowing you to create a healthy schedule for your child, especially for working moms. You can set limitations on the technology your child is using or you can also use technology to know that your child is where they say they are. In addition, using the buddy system with other moms can help you establish a schedule for your child that works with your schedule as well.

Maybe one month into the school year, do a check-in to see if your child’s schedule is working. A few questions you should ask yourself to assess whether the routine in place is working for your child are:

  • Is my child getting enough sleep?
  • Are they getting their homework done?
  • Did they seem stressed?
  • Do they seem bored?
  • Are they spending too much time on electronics?

Use all of the information that you gather to determine how your current scheduling is going. Checking in frequently will allow you to figure out how much scheduling your child needs and what works best.