What to Do When Extra-Curricular Activities Take Over Family Time

By: Jennifer Griffin-Wiesner

My daughter is shaping up to be a pretty good soccer goalie. She’s also a strong defender so she has made the top team in her age group in our local club a couple of seasons in a row. She also goes to soccer camps in the summer off-season, and indoor clinics and weekend league games in the winter. Recently she asked me if it was true that goalies were more likely to get college scholarships than other players, and if I thought that Hope Solo had a scholarship and what a person had to do to get one.

My daughter is 12. I’m pretty sure the fact that she’s strategizing about scholarships and playing so often in organized venues ought to be of concern. The fact that I get exhausted schlepping her around, fretting when she cries over a goal scored on her, and making sure I get all her physicals scheduled, equipment purchased, and registration forms in on time should be alarming. But, really, none of those things worry very many people. In fact most parents we know would probably say it would behoove her and me to push it a little more if she wants to play varsity in high school and then have a shot at playing in college. In fact, even as I write this I’m feeling some guilt for not doing more to help her prepare.

And that, my friends, is where it all starts to strike me as ridiculous. Because Nora has a whole lot of living to do before college, high school, even next summer: her first year of middle school, starting saxophone lessons and band, planning her birthday party, walking our dog, being with friends, spending time on Lake Superior with her grandparents, and more. Who knows what she’ll be like next year when the season kicks off. What will her passions be then? Her priorities?

Image via Glyn Lowe on Flick'r.

Dr. Bill Doherty, a marriage and family therapist and professor of family social science at University of Minnesota, has written a book that looks at the risks in this kind of overscheduled, achievement focus. He offers strategies for finding balance, such as:

  • Set limits for the number of activities each family member does outside the home. We have done this several times--even to the point of one year taking an activity sabbatical.
  • Schedule family activities and events and make them the priority over all others.
  • Be clear as to what your family values are and how you will live them (Hint: this probably means having LOTS of good communication.)
  • Tell Us: How do you make time for family time?

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