KidsHealth polled 882 kids ages 9 to 13 and found that having too much to do is a significant source of stress for many kids: 41 percent of those surveyed said that they feel stressed most of the time or always because they have too much to do. In addition, 78 percent wished that they had more free time.
How can you tell if your child is too busy? The telltale signs are easy to spot:
-- Does your child leave homework unfinished or complete it late at night because there's not enough time in the day?
-- Does your child often rush through meals in a hurry to get somewhere?
-- Do you feel stressed about getting your child from activity to activity?
-- Does your child complain about having to go to practice, games, or lessons?
-- Does your child get to bed on time?
-- Does your child's overall mood suffer because of his or her schedule?
"If you think that your child is overscheduled, it may be time to make some changes," said Josh Bennett, M.D., vice president of quality at HealthAmerica and HealthAssurance. "Decide together which activities are right for your child and whether any can be cut back."
How else can you help your child fend off the stress that comes from being too busy?
-- Set priorities. Help your child learn to make choices about activities. There are lots of interesting activities to choose from, but it's not possible to do them all. Help your child learn how to pick and choose, how to say no to some things, and how to budget time and energy.
-- Check in on homework. This is the time to make sure your child has the skills to organize, focus, and get the job done. And be there to help, if needed.
-- Schedule downtime. At school, there's always a recess, and it's important to make sure your child has unstructured playtime on nights and weekends, too. It provides a chance to recharge, relax, and slow down the pace.
-- Be a role model. Consider the pace of your own life. If you're overbooked, and frantically running between your own activities, think about how you can create some downtime in your own schedule. Parents need to relax and recharge, too.
You may worry that kids with more free time will just spend hours in front of the TV. A little downtime to plug in and zone out is OK. But too much can be unhealthy, so you may need to provide some guidance on how to make the most of free time.
"Set a limit on screen-time and passive activities, and provide some fun alternatives," said Dr. Bennett. "Offer to play a board game with your child, kick the soccer ball around, take a walk, or just hang out together while you're making dinner or working around the house. Time spent together provides a valuable opportunity to reconnect, interact, and chat. And your child will learn from that, too."
About the Poll
The national KidsPoll is a collaboration of the Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth, the Department of Health Education and Recreation at Southern Illinois University - Carbondale, the National Association of Health Education Centers (NAHEC), and participating health education centers throughout the United States. Those centers include:
-- Susan P. Byrnes Health Education Center, York, Pennsylvania
-- Weller Health Education Center, Easton, Pennsylvania
-- Children's Health Education Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
-- Robert Crown Center for Health Education, Hinsdale, Illinois
-- Health World Children's Museum, Barrington, Illinois
-- Kansas Learning Center for Health, Halstead, Kansas
-- McMillen Center for Health Education, Ft. Wayne, Indiana
-- Ruth Lilly Health Education Center, Indianapolis, Indiana
-- Saint Joseph Mercy Health Exploration Station, Canton, Michigan
About HealthAmerica and HealthAssurance
HealthAmerica Pennsylvania, Inc., has a 30-year record of providing health care benefits. HealthAmerica, HealthAssurance Pennsylvania, Inc., and affiliate companies cover over 700,000 members in Pennsylvania and Ohio through PPO, POS, HMO, Medicaid, and Medicare Advantage plans. In addition, HealthAmerica offers a product for individuals and families who are not eligible for employer-sponsored health care benefits, Medicare, or Medicaid, called HealthAmericaOne. HealthAmerica earned an "Excellent" Accreditation for its HMO plan and HealthAssurance earned an "Excellent" Accreditation for the HealthAssurance POS by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to measuring the quality of America's health care. With corporate offices in Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, HealthAmerica and HealthAssurance provide managed health care products and services to over 12,000 employers in Pennsylvania and Ohio. HealthAmerica and its affiliates employ over 2,200 people in Pennsylvania. For more information, visit HealthAmerica's website at www.healthamerica.cvty.com.