Downtime pays dividends: What may be best is a balance of activities and time off

Stress can be caused by overbooking your child. What is a good balance of activities for your child?

Downtime pays dividends: What may be best is a balance of activities and time off

Giving youth options both academically and athletically is so beneficial, but when is it too much? Can doing nothing or diversifying their interests help with burnout and brighten their horizons? Do you ever feel as a parent you are a chauffeur for your children? Do you feel like you are running around to events, practices and performances constantly? Many parents today have their children involved in so many activities it can be overwhelming to the parent and the child.

But being active is good! These activities may be getting them ready for high school or college. Youth may be gaining valuable life skills, learning to work with others, experiencing new environments and meeting new people. However, from clubs, to camps, to bands, to sports, to jobs, a child can be overscheduled and overwhelmed too. And that can lead to stress.

Putting in countless hours in one activity or sport can lead to stress, burnout and physical toll on the body. This can also lead to quitting or regretting having lost a childhood from all the time spent doing that one activity. Although it is good to nurture your child’s talents and teach them commitment, a balanced diet of activities coupled with some down time can keep your child healthy and happy and more productive for the future.

Today many sports can be played year-round and at various levels of competitiveness. There is no off season for soccer, tennis and basketball as the sport moves indoors during the inclement months of the year. Competing all year can lead to youth experiencing physical and emotional burnout. Stress can be caused by excessive pressure from parents, coaches and teammates to train, win or perform at a high level.

The physical aspect can also take a toll on youth. For example, as young pitchers in baseball and softball or athletes in tennis and basketball put repeated stress on their developing bodies, they risk injuries or permanent damage. That excessive repetitive use on joints and muscles may not hold out later in life. Bob Gibson, the hall of fame pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, didn’t start pitching until his 20s after time spent playing basketball. Jim Brown, a football player in college and for the Cleveland Browns, was also a two-sport athlete. This allowed his body to recover from the pounding it took during the season.

To combat burnout or the physical repetitive nature of a sport, consider taking on another sport. Playing more than one sport cannot only be beneficial to the body and prevent overuse of certain muscles and stress on joints, but it can also add to youth’s athletic ability. Another option is to enroll them in a noncompetitive league. It would be just for fun and to stay in shape. You could also have them “do nothing” in their off season. If they still want to remain in shape, which is great, have them do a sport or activity outside of competition if possible that applies different muscles and skills. This is also where their creativity can blossom. The “nothing time” is when they can just have fun in an unstructured, noncompetitive environment.

Burnout in sports can also happen in academic and arts, too. Too many piano recitals, plays and club obligations can put stress on your child. Is every weekend booked with an activity? Is your child at practice and events every day of the week and getting home late at night? When do they have time to be a kid, be creative and be able to make mistakes?

Sports, clubs, camps and activities can surly enrich your child’s life. They can learn new skills and enjoy new opportunities that will benefit them now and in the future. However, be on the lookout for burnout and stress on these young adults. Try to find a balance that is right for them and you. Plan what programs and activities they will enroll in and how that might tax there time. Try to budget in some downtime, too. That might be just what they need to stay fresh and have a fulfilling future.

For more information on burnout, stress or youth development programs, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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