5 Ways To Avoid Extracurricular Activities Overload

extracurricular activities

We didn’t plan well. Our sons were so excited to play multiple sports that we jumped right in and signed them up for what they wanted. One was playing baseball Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. The other was playing hockey Tuesday night and flag football on Thursday. Then we couldn’t deny our daughter’s request to take piano lessons. One week in and we knew we were in over our heads. It was exhausting, not only for us but for our kids too. We had no down time together as a family because of all of the extracurricular activities.

Do you feel more like a full-time chauffeur than a mother? Are your kids involved in so many activities that they barely spend time at home? Are they on the verge of burn out? Author Christine Klein provides some guidelines in determining which after-school activities to keep and which ones to cut, in her book, The Simpler Family: A Book of Smart Choices and Small Comforts for Families Who Do Too Much.

1. Don’t Pressure

As a mother, make sure you’re not pressuring your children into extracurricular activities that are more important to you than to them. For example, if your child enjoys soccer, let him play on a neighborhood team where he can enjoy and learn more about the sport. Don’t let your own competitive nature lead you to force him to join the most elite team which will involve heavy practice schedules and extra time traveling. Of course, if your child is the one who expresses interest, and is ready to commit, you can consider more demanding activities.

2. Choose Carefully

Extracurricular Time Worksheet

When the time comes to sign up for new activities, help your children decide which are most meaningful to them, then focus on those. Some families limit their children to one or two activities. You don’t want extracurricular activities to take the place of family time. Print out our Extracurricular Time Worksheet to help you keep track of the time commitments you select.

3. Set and Protect Your Priorities

Setting priorities will help you and your children choose which activities are most important. One family lists its priorities as God, family, and school. The mother in this family tells her children that if an activity is compromising any of these priorities, the activity must go.

4. Count the Financial Cost

Extracurricular Cost Worksheet

Klein also encourages parents to be aware of the financial pressures extra activities can bring. “In addition to the time after-school activities require, most also carry a hefty price tag,” she says. “Beyond registration fees, there are event fund-raisers, coach’s gifts, and fast food because there’s no time to cook.” For tracking and not overlooking some associated fees, print and use our Extracurricular Monthly Cost Worksheet printable.

5. Ask Yourself These Questions

Klein provides the following questions to ask when considering an activity:

  • Is my child enjoying the activity?
  • Is he learning something through his involvement?
  • Is she participating because her friends are doing it, because she thinks Mom and Dad want her to, or because she genuinely wants to?
  • Is your child’s schedule making unreasonable demands on the rest of the family?
  • Are my child’s grades suffering?
  • Are my child’s relationships suffering?

Finally, Klein says to periodically reconsider your child’s activities. She says you may find that you could make a change that makes everyone happier, including your child.

Tell us! What do you do to make sure your family doesn’t experience extracurricular activity overload?

This article is based on the book, The Simpler Family: A Book of Smart Choices and Small Comforts for Families Who Do Too Much, by Christine Klein.