Liz Morrison, LCSW
5 Signs Your Kid Is Too Busy-- And How to Help
Extracurricular activities are a great way for kids and teens to explore new hobbies, develop important skills, and make new friends. But balancing extracurriculars with the demands of school and social life can become overwhelming for developing kids.
At Liz Morrison Therapy, we work with middle schoolers and teens to help them figure out a healthy balance in their lives. We also work with parents to help them understand how to have better relationships with their kids. We know you want what’s best for your child. That’s why it’s important to understand why overscheduling kids can be harmful – and recognize signs your kid is too busy.
The Danger of Overscheduled Students: Burnout
As a parent, you want to make sure your child has the best opportunities. You want to make sure they’re well-rounded, happy, and get into good schools. And there’s nothing wrong with getting kids into activities that are fun and good for them. In fact, organized activities help boost kids’ psychological well-being and development. Adding extracurricular activities to their lives can be greatly enriching, particularly if they enjoy the activity and find it socially engaging.
But kids have a lot to balance in their lives. The pressures of homework, classes, and grades make school a challenging environment for many kids. Not to mention social concerns, like navigating friendships and the impact of social media on mental health. Middle schoolers and teens deal with a lot of regular pressures and concerns. Finding enjoyable activities to participate in is an important part of a child’s development, but it can be tough to find a balance between everything going on in their life.
All kids need downtime and play to decompress and be kids. If kids are too overscheduled, they can become overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed. This can lead to health issues like sleep problems, fatigue, and burnout.
Burnout affects a lot of people in our society. And it doesn’t only impact adults. Many of our teen and middle school clients are affected, too. The pressures and stress of everything kids have to balance can ultimately lead to burnout.
When kids experience burnout, the symptoms are similar to adult burnout. Symptoms can include:
Inability to focus on schoolwork, hobbies, or other aspects of life
Anxiety or worry
It can be tricky to recognize burnout. Your middle schooler or teenager may not have the resources to understand or communicate what’s going on for them. But burnout can greatly reduce mental health if left untreated. Luckily, you can keep an eye out for symptoms of burnout and seek support if you think your kid is struggling.
5 Signs Your Kid Is Too Busy
Overscheduled kids may or may not show symptoms of burnout. But there are other signs your kid is too busy, too. Here are 5 signs to look for.
They’re falling behind in school. Your child may not be able to keep up with all of the demands in their life. Eventually, something’s gotta give – and that something is often school. If your kid is overscheduled, they may not have the time or energy to do their homework and study for tests.
They don’t sleep well (or enough). Overscheduled students may have a hard time decompressing at the end of the day. This can lead to insomnia and other sleep issues. They also may use their phones to try and help them relax at night, but this often backfires. Screentime before bed can increase sleep difficulties.
They stop seeing their friends. If kids aren’t socializing to the same extent they used to, they may be overscheduled. They may not have the time or energy to see friends, have fun, or do the things they used to enjoy. Lack of socializing could also be a sign of depression, fatigue, or social anxiety.
They experience unexplained physical problems. Mysterious problems like headaches, stomach aches, or other unexplained pain can actually be caused by stress. If your kid is prone to anxiety and is having physical symptoms, they might be overscheduled or anxious.
Their mental health has taken a hit. If your child is showing signs of burnout or seems different from their usual self, it could be a sign they’re overscheduled and stressed. Trust your gut – if they seem “off” in some way, they probably are.
How to Help Your Overscheduled Child
Start a conversation with your kid. Ask them about their schedule. How do they feel about it? Are they feeling stressed or like it’s too much? Are they enjoying everything they’re doing? Are there things they’d rather stop doing? Having conversations with them about how they feel about their schedules can help you understand how they’re doing.
Let your child try new things without making any long-term commitments. It may be that they need to drop something in order to start a new activity. Ask them questions to help them figure out how to choose the right activities for them, and let them know you support them.
Let your kid make their own decisions about their schedule. Ultimately, it’s up to them to figure out what they want to do in their lives. Developing the skills to make their own choices will help them build agency and empowerment. It’s important to help them figure out how to balance their lives, but they also need to be able to make decisions and mistakes in the process. And if you or they are struggling, don’t be afraid to seek support.
Therapy Can Help You and Your Child Navigate Scheduling Stressors
If you think your kid’s schedule is causing more harm than good, we’re here to help.
We’ll support your child in balancing the pressures of their life. They’ll learn how to manage their time to improve mental health, use appropriate coping skills to feel less stressed, and make healthy decisions for themselves.
We also offer therapy for parents who want to learn to have better relationships with their kids. We can help you navigate difficult behaviors in your kids, communicate better, and support them in their lives.
Feel free to get in touch with us for a free 15-minute phone consultation. We can answer any questions you have, see whether we’re a good fit, and start working toward a better future today.