Kids Health and the Busy-ness After Back to School

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Kids Health and the Busy-ness After Back to School

by -

two boys playing soccer

Each year the summers seem to get shorter and shorter. It seems cliche, but how is it already September, back to school has come and gone, and children are in full swing of new routines, friends, and activities that keep them busy throughout their day. As a family medicine provider, I see kids, parents and families daily at UnityPoint Clinic in Cascade. And I see first-hand that families, kids in particular, are busy!! From athletic teams, to musical interests, and family commitments, a lot gets packed into a day. This is a good time of year to pause and really think about how much is too much for kids. Let me explain. 

  • Sleep. It’s important that children get the appropriate amount of sleep. School age children should receive 8-10 hours of sleep dependent upon their exact age. Younger children require more than teenagers. 

  • Down Time. Again, depending upon age of your children, down time is an important aspect of their day. Younger children, on average, require more downtime than teens. A good baseline is approximately 3 hours per day. The best form of down time comes in the form of reading, playing with friends, or going on a walk/bike ride, etc. 

  • Extracurricular Activities. Extracurricular activities can be a wonderful enhancement to child’s life. Extracurricular activities can help young children learn to participate with a group. Older children may be interested in growing their skills for a specific hobby. These are good things. A word of caution may be to limit extracurricular activities to no more than 2 hours after the school day. 

  • Work. Many teenagers begin looking for work to earn a little extra spending money. Taking on a part time job can teach commitment and responsibility. For those kids who do decide a part time job is a good fit, make sure it doesn’t become an over-commitment. The Department of Labor recommends no more than 12 hours per week for teens and part time jobs. 

  • Dinner. Everyone needs to eat, right? Should be easy enough to find time for supper, but that’s not always the case for families on the go. A healthy dinner should last 30 minutes, and families should find time to eat together 4-5 days per week. 

Although these are all good things to keep in mind, schedules do sometimes get out of hand. There are signs adults or parents can watch for in children to determine when their schedules are too full. A common sign is children falling asleep in school. Another to watch for at home is the completion of homework or chores. Make sure kids are getting their tasks done before they fall asleep for the night. Yet another way to monitor children is watch their anxiety level. Anxiety manifests as a constant worry that will not go away. Symptoms of anxiety may include: 

  • Feelings of avoidance or a desire to run away from things to prevent more anxiety

  • Physical signs, such as fussing, fidgeting and sleeplessness

  • Not wanting to try anything new

  • Fear of separation

It goes without saying: over-scheduling takes a toll on children and adults alike. Make sure to balance busy schedules with sleep and down time. Write down a schedule for each family member, identifying the children in different colors, so it’s easy to see the big picture of allotted down time versus planned time. Managing busy schedules can be a difficult task, but it’s an important one to ensure the mental and physical health needs of children are being met.