A parent’s guide to balancing a child’s busy schedule
Father with his young son at school

After the long summer months have passed, many parents look forward to the start of the school year. However, once the school year begins, so do many extracurricular activities. Some parents will naturally sign their kids up for many different sports and events, but that can make things just as jam-packed as they were in the summer. Here’s a guide on balancing your child’s busy schedule during the school year.

Figure out your child’s schedule

Before you sign up your child for any additional classes, be sure to look at their daily schedule. School hours are the same every day, but there may be after-school programs that you may want to sign them up for, such as languages, art, or science. Programs offered by the school board can be beneficial since they’re inexpensive and typically happen at the same school. That means you don’t need to rush home to shuttle them to their next class.

For those who decide to enrol their kids into programs outside of school, it’s important to examine the family’s overall schedule. Make sure you’re leaving enough time for your child to do homework and study. You’ll also want to budget some time that’s dedicated to the family as a unit. Setting aside some personal time for your child is good too, since it’s a period where they’re not on a schedule.

Set priorities

Every parent wants the best for their children, and will sometimes enrol their kids into as many classes as possible. While the intentions are good, this may be too much for both kids and parents. When picking activities, prioritize what’s important. Something such as swimming and language classes have both short-term and long-term benefits. There may also be non-negotiable activities that you insist your kids take part in.

Another consideration is the interest and passions your child may have. Some parents believe they know best and may enrol their kids into certain classes. However, if your kids don’t enjoy some things, it’s just going to make them miserable. Regardless of the child’s age, having a discussion with them about what activities to prioritize is a must.

Have a good system in place

No matter how many children you have, you need to set up a system to organize your kids’ schedule. The obvious thing to do is set up a shared calendar with the family. Use different coloured labels for each child so you know exactly what’s going on. You also want to be as detailed as possible, so include the time and location so you can identify any conflicts.

Juggling activities for multiple children can be tricky, so dividing up the tasks should be a given. There’s no need to have the entire family at every class. Quite often it makes sense for each parent to manage a single child. Also, when possible, try to have classes or activities that are close together or at the same time so there’s potential for more family time later.

Communication is key

With a schedule in place and activities picked out, time management becomes less stressful. That said, having open communication with both your child and your partner is important. Make sure you talk to your child about how the classes are going. Ask them if they enjoy what they’re doing and if there has been progress made. It’s perfectly normal for kids to be nervous about some things, but you don’t want to force them to continue doing things they don’t enjoy.

Speaking with your partner about your kids' activities can also be beneficial for various reasons. It allows both parents to be informed of what’s going on even if they’re not attending each class, and it’s also a good opportunity to discuss if the current plan is working. If adjustments need to be made or classes need to be changed, it shouldn’t cause the entire family stress.

Don’t overload your kids

Some parents may enjoy shuttling their kids around to different activities, but it’s entirely possible for kids to suffer burnout. It may not be obvious right away, but having too many extracurricular activities could reduce the academic performance of your kids. Getting a tutor isn’t the answer, as that would just add to their workload.

To avoid burnout, look for signs such as mood swings and fatigue. If they’re tired or angry all the time, it should be clear that they’re stressed. While scaling back on commitments may not be the ideal scenario, it could lead to a better school/life balance.

The bottom line

Putting kids in activities is important, but overdoing things might not be in the best interest of anyone. Talk to your kids about what classes they want to be part of and why certain ones you choose are important. At the same time, be sure you’re scheduling family and personal time, so your children have an opportunity to do things that keep them relaxed.

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. As a completely self-taught, do-it-yourself investor with no formal training, he makes money easy to understand for all Canadians. His specialties include personal finance, budget travel, millennial money, credit cards, and trending destinations.

Barry Choi is a paid spokesperson of Sonnet Insurance.