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Schoolbooks, Fine; But Beware of Overbooking Kids for After-School

Experts say overscheduling is bad for children's health. Others say busy kids are less likely to drink and do drugs. But most agree that kids are doing too much.

It is back-to-school season. The excitement of purchasing new school supplies, and slinging a new backpack over their shoulders can wear off rather quickly as students take a hard look at school, sports and the extracurricular activity schedules that lie ahead.

Many families emphasize involvement in sports as a way to maintain a connection with school and peers, have a healthy lifestyle and perhaps get to play that sport in college.

On top of this, students in middle and high school are encouraged to participate in school activities like ASB, Band, Art or clubs to broaden their experience and knowledge in other areas—helping them become a well-rounded person.

Then there's community service or volunteer work students should do to instill in them a sense of compassion, learn volunteerism and generally heighten their capacity for philanthropy and giving back to their communities. It is also a requirement at some schools, and for college applications.

Homework and other school-related work is a child's priority. Going to school to learn, and being responsible for their assignments and grades, is essentially a student's job.

In recent years, competitiveness in sports, exotic community services activities, and grueling academics have reached a frenzied level. These activities coupled with demanding classes are considered the keys that will open college doors; kids and parents are pushing themselves to reach ever-escalating goals.

Experts say this type of pressure on youngsters and adolecents is detrimental to their mental development and general well-being. Others say busy children will be less likely to smoke, drink or use drugs.

But the general sentiment is that kids today are indeed overscheduled, and that their health and family life is greatly affected by over-involvement in after-school activities. 

What do you do to help your student not become overscheduled?

Patch Parents Talk contemplates the pros and cons of over scheduling children and share some of their experiences to try to get a handle on their kids' activities before the grueling school year begins.

Tonia Accetta: I have to say that I am guilty of over doing it myself, but I won't let my kids overdo it. Schoolwork has to come first; it's the money in the bank that will allow your kids to prosper in life. Sports, clubs and community service make up a well-balanced young adult, but like the food we eat it should all be in moderation.

Tam Dorow: Life is full of competing demands on our time. As parents, I think it's our job to help prepare our children to handle those competing demands. 

Fortunately, our family is not gifted or well-endowed in any particular area of life and, as a consequence, we try to lead a purposeful, healthy and balanced life.  Part of that is effectively managing our time.  The most valuable thing a human being has is time.  Don't waste it. 

We establish priorities for our kids.  In our family, the kids' number 1 job is school.  They need to do that to the best of their abilities. That means more than just academic.  It's also social and responsible behaviors. Each kid need to do the best they can, learn and abide by the standards and rules of the schools and contribute wherever there's an opportunity. Sometimes that means leadership activities or social projects. 

Our kids' second priority is activities outside of school, like sports, music, and community service.  We encourage them to participate in at least one team sport per season, but that can't always happen and that's OK, too.  However, once we commit to an activity we follow through and fulfill that committment. 
Even if you hate it, finish out the season. 

Learn to deal with it because some day you may have a boss you are not crazy about.  We also know that each kid cannot sign up for more than two outside activities at a time during the school year.  Establish priorities before the season starts so one activity will take precedent over the other and communicate that up front to all involved. 

We also like to leave time to allow a kid to be a kid: to daydream, read a book, bounce the basetball around in the driveway, go to the beach, see a movie or bake the best darn cookie you can bake, if that's what you decide to do.
We try to do a few things well and always get a good night's sleep.

Suzette Valle: Students are being pulled in many directions. The film Race To Nowhere tried to illustrate the frenetic pace students live with today as they make their way to college. Balancing everything students have to do these days is difficult, and it's up to parents to help their children moderate the demands on their precious time.  

However, one thing remains constant, school work and grades should get top priority over any activity no matter how much responsibility the child or parent feel they have with a particular committment.

Students need to learn to say no sometimes and parents, school administrators, and counselors should step in and help advise and manage both kids' and adults' expectations about the real purpose of engaging in after-school activities. School is and should be first and foremost.

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