Minimizing Family Schedules

My kids may never play the banjo. In truth, there are a lot of things in life that they may never do. I’m okay with that.  As parents, it can be easy for us to get caught up in wanting to expose our children to more opportunities, more activities, more…. more. We sign them up for lessons and extra curricular activities and try to coordinate schedules so everyone gets where they need to be. We may feel compelled culturally or socially to ensure our children don’t miss out or don’t fall behind.

Minimizing Family Schedules
Once when my children were toddlers, I was trying to get both them and my husband out the door so we weren’t late for our parent and baby swimming lesson. In the midst of the chaos, it hit me. My efforts to hurry everyone up had me creating this tornado around me and yet nothing was moving any faster because of it. On the contrary, my stress was making it harder for all of us. I had to ask myself if the swimming lessons were truly worth the chaos and stress leading up to getting us all there on time. They weren’t. Many things aren’t. Structured activities can be incredibly valuable but constant busyness and over-scheduling (hello mom taxi!) come at a premium cost. What’s the price of a packed family schedule? 
It’s the space between (not that Space Between. Though, I bet you’re singing it now). 
We underestimate the power of the space between. As a child psychologist and parent coach, one of my main goals is to help both parents and children create the space between a situation (a stimulus) and a reaction (a response). To allow room to breathe. To slow down their reactions. To gain mastery over their emotions. 
In therapy, we often talk about “holding space”. We “hold space” by being physically and emotionally present for someone and listening without judgement. 
When we don’t allow enough space between in our lives- space between school and home, space between activities/homework/meals, the impact is clear. We are more stressed. Our children are more stressed. They lose out on necessary unstructured downtime and there is little time for deep connection. They may be more tired, irritable, or anxious. 

Minimizing Family Schedules- Radical Change

  • If you’re noticing the impact of busyness on your family, it may be time to minimize your family schedule. Try a radical change. Try to cut your scheduled activities in half. Here are some ways to go about minimizing family schedules:
  • Have a family discussion about your values and whether your time and money are being spent in alignment with those values
  • Decide on a certain number of scheduled activities in a week
  • Identify what activities to prioritize and what activities can wait for another season
  • Experiment with replacing some of those extra curricular activities with family rituals such as playing board games, going on family bike rides, or cooking together
  • Set boundaries that work for your family such as no playdates earlier than 10am or no scheduled activities on Saturdays- whatever fits with your family’s natural rhythms
  • There is a lot of value for children in developing passions and pursuing interests, particularly when they learn how to stick with hard things and master them over time. Being intentional with time means having the space to grow from those experiences. Cutting schedules isn’t simply about reducing a child’s schedule. If a parent reduces their child’s schedule but not their own, the child may end up filling that time with screens or creating other challenges. This approach is a family approach.

This is about finding that space in between. Where connection grows. Where creativity blooms. Where laughter keeps us coming back for more.

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