Finding the Balance between Your Children’s Activities and Their Well-being

In a prior blog post, I wrote about the importance of having your children participate in a variety of after-school activities and the benefits that doing so provide.  Today, I would like to extend a cautionary note that those activities should enhance their childhood experiences, not inhibit them.  Children who are overexposed to activities can suffer from headaches; feel tired, anxious or depressed; and suffer a drop in their grades.  Here are a few tips on how to have your children involved in extracurriculars, while still giving them the chance to be children:

  1. Time: According to most experts, children should not spend more than 10 to 20 hours a week participating in out of school activities. If they spend any more time than this, they will not have enough time to do their homework, adequately prepare for tests, and be with their families. Choosing activities that meet bi-weekly or monthly could be healthier options for children, rather than those that meet once or several times a week.
     
  2. Request: Before enrolling your children in an extracurricular activity, it is best to ask if they want to join in it. This way, it will be an activity that they want to do, not an activity that they are being forced to do. Also, try not to pressure your children to outdo themselves or anyone else in their respective activities. Never compare what they are doing or not doing with other children.
     
  3. Your schedule: Ask yourself whether you or your spouse have the time to drive them to and from each activity.  Adding too many activities can wreak havoc on your schedule too and cause a lot of stress. 

The balance between school, homework, play, and family time can be difficult.  The important issue is that you try to balance all four, with an emphasis on what works for the family unit as a whole.   No activity should take the place of spending quality time together as a family or put too much stress on family life.

Are Your Children Consuming Too Much Digital Media?

We have all seen it.  Parents are busy so they give their children some form of digital media to occupy their time while the parents get things done.  Often, it is a cell phone with games.  Other times, it is a laptop or other small device with games or a movie.  Have you ever stopped and thought about how much digital media your children consume each day and whether it is good for them?

In October, 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics held a national  conference and discussed new health regulations for children for 2017.  One of the main topics was children and digital media.  The Academy had previously recommended limiting the amount of television viewing to children who are 2 years or older and no more than two hours a day.  However, since we have become saturated with all sorts of digital media, the Academy reviewed its recommendations and issued some new ones.

According to Dr. Jenny Radesky, “Families should proactively think about their children’s media use and talk with children about it, because too much media use can mean that children don’t have enough time during the day to play, study, talk, or sleep.”  The Academy stresses the fact that problems begin when digital media takes the place of what children need to be doing in the real world and can negatively affect their health.

Some of the new recommendations are:

1.    For children 18-24 months, do not allow them to use a screen except for video chatting.

2.    For children 2 to 5 years old, limit screen use to 1 hour of high quality media a day.

3.    For children 6 and older, parents should place consistent limits so that their children do not lose sleep and miss out on all the many fun things that children need to do. 

Next time, when you want to keep your children occupied, get them a good book to read.  They will learn new words and improve their comprehension skills.  Nothing can or should replace a good book!

To read more about the Academy’s recommendations, CLICK HERE.

Children Playing Video Games – The Pros & Cons

I’m certain that many parents purchased or friends and relatives purchased video games for their children or other young relatives as gifts this past Christmas.  As the mother of two sons, I know well the desires that children have to play video games, especially boys.   

Many parents ask – can playing too many video games really hurt my child?  According to developmental psychologist Douglas Gentile, the answer to that question is “Yes”.  He gives the following reasons why:

  • Kids who spend too much time at the computer are missing out on other activities fundamental to their physical, social, intellectual, and emotional development. Time spent in front of the computer or game console is time taken away from playing with friends, reading or doing a project with you, and other activities.
  • Kids usually play video games alone, and too much time spent alone can foster social isolation.
  • Children who watch more than ten hours of TV a week don't do as well in school as kids their age who watch less. When setting limits, it's important to consider the total amount of time your child spends in front of all electronic screens — TVs, computers, movie screens, etc.
  • Bad habits can become ingrained and are more difficult to change as children get older. (According to research, the average American 4th-grade boy spends 9.5 hours each week playing video and computer games, in addition to other screen time.)
  • If your child regularly plays games with plots based on violence and aggression, research shows he is at risk for increased aggressive behavior.

There are pros to video games, though.  He recommends quality games that give children the opportunity to practice problem solving and logic skills. They help the development of fine motor and coordination skills and also help children become familiar with information technology.  He strongly suggests playing these games with your children as special bonding time. 

Watching too much Television Has Negative Effects on Children

Sometimes, as a parent, I used the television set as a substitute babysitter.  Yes, I confess -it is too easy to do.  I would rationalize it by saying to myself that it was only for a short period of time and that I really needed to get something else done without my sons being under my feet. However, I have learned that doing this was not good for my children or me. 

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), there are confirmed negative effects on our children from watching TV.  For example, children who watch a lot of TV have these characteristics in common: they exercise less and tend to be overweight; they read less; and they have lower grades.  Also, they learn about such things as junk food, smoking, drinking alcohol, and sex.  Since they are so young and impressionable, parents should be introducing and talking to them about these subjects rather than having them learn from what they have watched on TV.

Author Soraya Diase Coffelt

 

How much Television will Your Children be Watching this Summer?

Now that school is over and summertime is here, what will your children be doing this summer?  I hope it’s not a lot of television watching!  The famous comedian Groucho Marx once said “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”  Does your child like to pick up a book rather than watch TV? 

For very young children under 2 years old, the American Academy of Pediatrics actually recommends that they do not watch any TV.  During these early years, children develop interaction skills with people and love to explore and play.  Watching TV deprives them of this critical development.   For preschoolers, watching TV can help with their learning the letters in the alphabet and other educational information, but TV should be limited.   Playing and reading should be important parts of their day with watching TV (or DVDs) as just a minimal pastime.

Author Soraya Diase Coffelt