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Are Your Children Over-Scheduled and Over-Stressed?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

Several recent studies provide evidence contradictory to the reports that our children are over worked with homework and sports and music schedules after school hours.

Sandra Hofferth, director of the Maryland Research Center and the University of Maryland, wrote a research paper that reported findings contradictory to other findings about children being anxious and depressed about being required to do too much. In fact, her research found that these children were doing far better than children who have little or nothing to do after school.

She does admit that the parents of these busy children are sometimes found to be stressed because of having to drive their kids to various activities as well as help them with homework.

Hofferth’s findings have renewed and intensified the debate. In Hofferth’s book, "The Hurried Child, Myth vs. Reality, she reports that those children whose lived were balanced did best in terms of not feeling stressed. By balanced she clearly states what she means, that children with one or two organized activities plus homework did best and were able to handle their responsibilities.

There are other studies that support Hofferth’s findings. In fact, one done at Yale University by Mahoney, found that children had bad reactions to music or sports if their parents were pressuring them into achieving high status in their sport, music or other after school activity.

The message seems to be clear: Children who are involved in roughly twenty hours of activity after are able to do their homework and have higher self esteem and are more outgoing and confident than children who are not involved in organized activities.

However, another message seems clear: It is up to  parents to set limits on children as to the number of hours per day and week that they can realistically be involved in activities. It is the role of parents to set limits, put time aside for family activites and make certain that homework is not neglected.

Just for the sake of clarity, these activities include such things as violin, soccer, ballet, Scouts, baseball, etc. The ages in many of the studies range from 8 to 14 years of age.

As parents or younger adults, what are your thoughts and reactions to this issue of after school activities and stress on children and parents?

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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