Ruhi was very excited when she stepped out of her school bus today. She started chattering about all the events of school. They had watched a show on ‘Save Earth’ during science class and she also had shared her favourite snack with her new friend. Her school music teacher had praised her as she had sung ‘Do Re Me’ really well. She was talking continuously and sort of hopping and jumping. Amita’s mind was however pre-occupied. All that was running in her mind was that the bus was 10 minutes late, due to the traffic and that meant she had 10 minutes less in her hand to get Ruhi ready for her dance class. No sooner Ruhi and Amita entered the house, Sneha, the sweet little toddler and baby sister of Ruhi ran to hug her elder sister. Amita then and there raised her voice to remind Ruhi that she needs to change and have her milk so that she doesn’t get late for her dance class. Finally with lots of effort, Amita rushed and dropped Ruhi to her dance class just on time. She reached home, fed Sneha and had a quick check on her whatsapp messages. Oops.. there were 20 new messages on Ruhi’s school group. The discussion was about enrolment for the Olympiad examinations. Amita quickly made up her mind that she needs to discuss this with Rahul in night and then looked at the clock. It was already time to pick up Ruhi from her classes. Night was usual with a quick dinner and then to bed. Ruhi pleaded Amita if she can play for some time with Sneha. Though Amita wanted to say yes but she knew that if Ruhi doesn’t sleep on time she will be late in the morning to get up and reach her swimming classes followed by her drawing classes. Rahul who had come from office gave a good night kiss to Ruhi, who then slept murmuring something which sounded like “I never get time to play…..”. Amita heard that but ignored it at once.
Now genuinely tell me do you relate to this small evening scene (even remotely)? Yes, I do, to some extent or on some days. Now you may ask is there anything wrong with this scene. Well actually “No”. It’s like a normal routine of any household where there are children of learning age. Then why you felt an underlying stress and anxiety while going through this normal routine scene of a household?
Well the truth of today’s competitive era is that parents of our generation want our children to learn skills, gain confidence, find their area of interests and also try new things. To support us the number of activity options for children seems to be expanding every minute. So how do we ensure that we have maintained a right balance between providing opportunities to our child and at the same time we are not harming our child by over-scheduling them.
Here are a few pointers which may help each and all of us to create stress free environment for us as parents and thereby ensuring that children are benefitted to the maximum with these activities without any stress or anxiety:
- Make a Time Table : A day has twenty-four hours for all of us. So yes the time is a limited resource that we have in hand and it needs to be therefore utilised wisely. Making a schedule or a time table is the key to utilise the time available in hand in most effective way. No doubt that a child wants to learn many new skills and we as parents want to provide all the facilities, but we need to remember that time in hand is limited and that we cannot do everything at same time. Select activities which your child need to enrol into wisely say maximum one or two. Anything more than that would mean that you are simply running around hopping from one class to another and in turn missing upon the quality time being spend together as a family.
- Trust your choices: As a parent we want the best for our children. Modern day parents do lots of research before selecting a school for their child. Most of the private schools today provides facilities for overall development of children, which includes various activities including sports, music, drama and dance. Once you have made an effort in selecting your child’s school, trust your selection. While we enthusiastically want to provide exposure to our children early on to each and every activity, schools which have curriculum designed by experts provide all the age appropriate exposure to children and sometimes it may not be necessary to send the child to any extra classes for those activities.
- Stay away from competing parents: There are inspiring parents and then there are competitive parents. They are easily distinguishable by their behaviour. Give a deaf ear to the competitive parents who boasts about their children going to various classes or about achievements of their children in various fields/ exams. Remember a child is not to be known by what he / she does or achieves but why what they are. The utmost important thing for a child is to learn basic values of honesty, love, empathy, respect and gratitude. Try and avoid the competitive parent trap by refraining any discussions on results/ achievements.
- Remember every child is different: Can you just imagine a World where everyone does the same thing as other. We all acting as well programmed robots who would deliver the same output, if the input is same. Sounds funny – Right? So why are we expecting this from our children. We need to remember that every child is a different with diverse personality and likings. An elephant cannot swim and a fish cannot lift a tree trunk but they both can do what they do the best and excel in their respective field. Try to find the areas of interest of your child and accordingly decide which activity class is best for your child. Sending children to various classes or making them appear in various competitive exams under peer pressure is the worst thing we as a parent can do to our child.
- Process is important, Outcome is not: Sending children to activity classes or making them appear for any competitive exams without any expectations of results is what is required from our end as a parent. Here, I am not saying to keep sending the child to any classes even if the child is not interested, but sending them there just to excel and/or win trophies needs to be avoided. Sometimes child may be interested in an activity but is not able to perform at par with his/her peers. This doesn’t mean that the child is doing bad. We as parents need to remind ourselves that it’s the process of learning which is important and not the immediate outcome of it. Some activities have long term benefits and the same needs to be appreciated. Unrealistic expectations from children will only pull down their confidence and strain the relationship between parent and child in future.
- Do not ever underestimate the importance of play and reading with your child: This is the most important pointer as per me. I absolutely agree that there are various positives of involving children in variety of activities, however, benefits of unscheduled free time especially with parents and friends cannot be ignored. Free play not only builds imagination, creativity and innovation but also provides time to digest and practice the skills already gained. Whatsoever these classes can do for our children can never ever be replaced with what we as a parent can do for them. Positives of quality time with the children spent playing and reading to them are enormous. When closely observed, we find that children whose parents spend quality time with them, playing with them and taking keen interest in their activities excel way better than their peers. Parental support and acceptance is the biggest morale booster for any child.
- Listen to your child at the right moment – when they want to talk: Any human being gets an urge to share their emotions, thoughts, ideas or experiences at a particular moment. That moment is most important. If they get an attentive ear at that time, the precise thoughts, ideas, emotions, experiences get shared. But once that moment is lost, the desire to share or even the precision of information being shared gets compromised. So remember to give ears to your children when they want to convey something. Don’t let that moment get lost in the hurriedness to reach to various activity classes. For this ensure that they have enough time to talk to you whenever they meet you after a considerable gap of time eg., when they return from their school or any activity classes.
- Revisit your time table at frequent intervals: I can’t emphasize enough on the importance of re-visiting and reviewing the plans at frequent intervals. Just as much making a schedule for child is important, its equally important to re-visit the same at frequent intervals. In case a particular activity which was chosen for your child after considering his / her area of interest and with their consent is not being enjoyed by your child or not providing desired results, try to review it and find the reasons for the same.
- Ask yourself following questions before enrolling in any activity classes: Before enrolling your child to any classes, do ask yourself these questions:
- Why am I enrolling my child for this activity / exams? Does my child really likes this activity or its under some peer pressure?
- Does this activity acts as a stress buster for my child or does it increases his stress?
- Are the timings and days of the activity such that my child gets enough time to spend with family and friends and have a free play?
- Does the schedule allows the child to maintain healthy habits such as eating balanced meals, getting adequate rest and keeping up with their homework and school activities?
- Does the schedule or timings of these activities puts any stressful burden on me as a parent? If it does, better avoid the same. Remember stress free parents can only make stress free child.
- Is it something that I can’t teach her at home? Do I really need a classes for this?
Give a thought to each of the above before your child starts a new activity. This may help you feel more secure about your choices resulting in a “just right” schedule for you and your child.
Remember, in the end, the best schedule for your child will be the one you create with their unique personality and interests in mind.