I do my homework on the train on my way to practice.
I study during breaks at dance.
I try to do schoolwork on the weekend so I can get to sleep before midnight on school nights.
We don’t get home until after 8pm because it’s a long drive from my violin lesson.
Above are comments I hear from students of all ages in Lower, Middle, and Upper School. Hearing these comments make me sad, and I feel the weight of their exhaustion from their over-packed schedules. Extracurricular activities compounded with lack of sleep is causing our students to be stressed and unhappy. Picture this past week. Were you driving your kids in the car, trying to be somewhere on time? Think of the stress involved with getting the family ready, getting them in the car, getting to the activity on time, waiting, ensuring they practiced their skill at home. Is this quality time spent with your child?
Often when I meet with students regarding time management, goal setting, or stress, I have them lay out their weekly schedule for me to pick apart. What I’m looking for is time they are not successfully utilizing, ways they are unnecessarily distracting themselves, or social emotional stressors in their lives. Whatever the issues, they result in lack of sleep, and almost always, the source of the problem is their jam-packed week.
Are students allotting time for enough sleep? No. Are they excelling academically? Usually not. The Sleep Foundation recently published this study of 3,000 high school students. Those who reported higher grades “had significantly more sleep time and earlier bedtimes on school nights than those with lower grades.”
I recently asked one student if he enjoyed playing piano. “I’d rather spend time with my mom,” was his answer. Parents often ask me for ideas about what they can do to help lessen their child’s stress, make them happier, motivate them. What if the easy answer is to stop shuffling them around and allowing them to be kids? I am not alone in this line of thought. At the end of this blog, I have listed several sources that echo my own thoughts here.
Some other thoughts on ways to not overbook your child:
- Take a semester off from after-school classes
- If you do sign them up for lessons, ask them first if they enjoy them
- Make sure you provide them with free time, not iPad/tv time, but time where they can just play or talk with you
- Don’t compete with other kids. Another parent’s overbooked child might not be a happy, successful child
By Jennifer Stec
Mrs. Stec is Morgan Park Academy’s School Counselor.