5 Ways to Give Your Time-Starved Kids (And You!) a Break

With the end of the school year, many parents already are eagerly signing their kids up for extracurricular activities without stopping to ask if this is best for the health and well being of their children. This year, give your time-starved kids and yourself a break.

If you don't have children at home, then think about this information for yourself - while most organizations are "dark" for the summer. Just because you belonged to the group last year does not mean that you need to belong to the same group this year - just a thought!!

A new poll by the National Association of Health Education Centers and its federal and university partners reports that 77 percent of kids ages 9 to 13 wish they had more free time. The trademarked KidsHealth KidsPoll also reports that having too much to do was leaving a substantial 41 percent of children surveyed feeling stressed "most of the time or always."

Allowing children to skip after-school and weekend activities to spend more time in front of a computer, playing video games or watching TV just for fun isn't the answer, either. These kids were nearly three times more likely to want free time than those who spend less than an hour in front of computers, video games or television sets, according to the poll.

Are your kids pressuring you to sign them up for extracurricular activities because they feel peer pressure? Are you driving your children from one activity to the next because you want to offer all those extras that other parents (your peers) are providing to their children?

Children of every age who are trying to cope with self-imposed or parent-imposed schedules that don't allow them the free time they want can produce chronic fatigue, sour moods and poor eating and sleeping habits that will set them up for high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, obesity and other stress-induced conditions as adults.

5 Ways To Give Your Time-Starved Kids A Break:

One: Give Yourself a Break. Kids learn by example. If you're over-stressed from too much work and too many responsibilities, start by achieving a better balance between your job and home life. Exercise, eat well, get plenty of sleep and allow yourself free time.

Two: Become a De-Stress Role Model. If you are rushing from work to home to drop-off and pick-up duties for your children without quality time for your family, you are a poor role model. If the health and well being of your kids is important to you, prove it by scheduling quality time for your kids each day.

Three: Listen to Your Kids. Forcing children to take extracurricular classes or participate in sports can backfire if they don't want to become involved. If they are complaining about their hectic days and not showing up for activities you scheduled for them, pay attention to these important signs of stress.

Four: Involve Your Children In De-Stress Decisions. Let your kids play an active role in determining how to set priorities for what they want to do, incorporating what they reasonably can accomplish. Sit down together and write "pro" and "con" lists for each activity. Allow yourself to admit that you, too, can fall victim to peer pressure, inspiring them to admit when they are letting their peers push them into activities.

Five: Enforce Stress-Free Time. Unplug yourself and your kids from computers, cell phones, video games and TV for specified times each day to do nothing in particular. Read, walk, write, play. Free time allows you to become more creative, and also to refresh and re-energize your mind and body for the next day.

Marketing Strategist and Productivity Coach, Speaker and Author, Ruth Klein, is the owner of the award-winning boutique firm, The Marketing/Time Source.