Juggling after-school activities

It’s important for moms to find balance when it comes to after-school activities.

Millions of American children returned to school this month and with them, many American moms returned to the annual grind of driving their children to a myriad of afterschool commitments including sports, social, recreational and religious activities. The stress that comes along with these demands is inevitable and I often work with women who experience stress at higher than normal levels this time of year. When stress remains chronically high over a period of time, it can be problematic for our health and wellbeing. One of the things that I work with moms is figuring out the source of the stress during the RELAX: Alternatives to Anger classes I teach through Michigan State University Extension. Three possible sources for moms who drive their kids all over the place are: running late, not taking good care of oneself and having unrealistic expectations about the number of afterschool activities their children and families can handle.

I work with moms who are stressed out and tell me that they’re always running late. What I tell them is to try organizing your life so that you’re not always racing against the clock. Ask other parents on your kids’ sports teams if they are willing to carpool. Enlist the help of your partner and extended family if you can. Also, try to make things more predictable for yourself, as well as your kids. Use a large visible calendar and place it in a common family area like the kitchen and plot all pertinent dates and activities on it. This way, you and your kids will have a daily visible reminder of what’s coming up.

Busy moms who get wrapped up in running their kids around often forget to take care of themselves. They often don’t get enough sleep or eat well. When they tell me they’re stressed, I suggest that they take an “adult timeout” by telling their kids that they need a break. I remind them that kids learn from us and they model the behavior they observe us display. If we model taking care of ourselves and taking a break instead of losing our cool, they will incorporate those behaviors into their repertoire of behaviors, as well. Once the kids are in bed for the evening, moms can take a long hot shower or bath, listen to music, read or engage in another relaxing activity. Moms owe it to themselves and to their children to take care of themselves.

Finally, many stressed moms take on more than they can actually juggle effectively. I tell them to limit the number of after-school activities that their children participate in. It is good to keep kids busy and active, but if you find yourself literally running from place to place every evening after school, you might want to reevaluate. I know in my own family we had to do this. As much as I wanted our daughter to be able to cheer, dance, work on the school newspaper and take Spanish after school, we had to make some tough decisions to scale her after school schedule back to something more manageable and sensible for us. She was doing homework until 10 p.m. and with my demanding work schedule, I was always tired and frustrated. Eliminating a couple of her activities from the calendar made us all feel better.

All mothers want their children to be exposed to social, recreational and sports activities that contribute to their development in healthy ways. However, it cannot be at the expense of our own health and wellbeing. By trying to figure out the source of stress and employing a few strategies to sideline it, we can build healthier, balanced lives for families and ourselves.

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