Creative Child

Why You Shouldn’t Trap Your Kids in Busyness

by Deborah Song

The art of staying busy requires the modern parent to book play dates, enroll kids in classes, make sure they practice their instruments, sign them up for an extracurricular sport or maybe two, leaving very little room on the weekend for kids to sleep in and relax, and almost zero idle time on the weekdays when our kids’ schedules are also competing with homework.

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If this sounds relatable and dizzying, consider that much of this busyness is likely self-imposed. We are our kids’ guardians after all. So why do we do it? Peer pressure perhaps. But I’ll be the first to admit, being busy also feels good in an it-hurts-so-good kind of way. Coming home exhausted from back-to-back activities feels like an accomplishment in and of itself.

“I think there’s been a kind of confusion in our culture where people have felt that they have to be anxious, uptight and always on the go to be effective,” says psychologist and author Daniel Goleman, whose best sellers include Emotional Intelligence and The Meditative Mind. Busyness is no longer a means to an end, but the goal that’s become the norm. And it’s a virtue in our society that’s being trickled down to our kids.

But more and more research is showing that periods of rest are critical to our mental and physical well-being. There’s an ebb and flow to the way our bodies and brains function, and they require a rhythm that includes some downtime amidst whirlwind schedules. Furthermore, research is showing that the busyness we pursue with good intention may actually be counterproductive, leaving us less creative, less focused and less healthy.

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Misleading still is the belief that all we need to do to rest (or let our children rest) is simply stop what we’re doing. In reality, putting the breaks on our momentous lives requires a strenuous act of will. It’s hard to sit still when everyone around you is bustling.

Even though my husband and I made a conscious decision not to enroll our kids in organized sports that dictate our weekend schedules, I find myself feeling self-conscious every Saturday morning when we’re enjoying breakfast in our pajamas and everyone else is at soccer practice. My temptation to join the soccer masses renews each and every time I talk to a soccer mom. I have to constantly remind myself why our decision works for our family.

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