Does it ever stop?
They go to school for 7 or 8 hours a day, then soccer practice, followed by hours upon hours of homework. Don’t forget about the test in chemistry tomorrow either!
Repeat it all again tomorrow. Except instead of soccer you have violin lessons and then have to study for a math test. Then you have to write a paper in English. Also, there is a history project due at the end of the week and a violin recital to prepare for on Saturday. You also have your cousin’s birthday party Sunday, too. And that’s before you can study for the endless list of tests in the coming week.
I believe there are 3 primary reasons our teens are over-scheduled:
- Making up for lost time in a post-pandemic world
- College prep pressure
- Parental trauma
Making Up for Lost Time
I have been noticing that kids and teens are over-scheduled since before the pandemic (I was also an over-scheduled teen in my day!). However, it seems that the over-scheduled teen has become a bigger issue than it ever was. I think the pandemic has a lot to do with that.
A Year of Social Development Was Lost
Depending on where you live, kids and teens lost out on at least a year of social activities. I have talked about this before in my blog post titled A Perfect Summer Recipe for Teens. Socializing is vital for healthy teen development. Becoming engaged in sports, clubs, and other hobbies is a great way for teens to connect with other teens. However, I also talk about the importance of balance in many other blog posts.
Filling Up Our Schedules
Since the restrictions of the pandemic lockdown have subsided, it seems that a natural reaction from many (not just teens) is to fill up our schedule with opportunities to be around others. We want to seize the day because none of us expected to lose that in March 2020. Who knows if such a thing could happen again?
Filling up our schedules is a way to reconnect with others and socialize. But, teens also lost time to refine the skills involved in whatever hobbies they participate in. Sports practices, theater productions, dance classes, and more could only take place with tight restrictions if not canceled completely.
College Prep Pressure
Another reason that teens are over-scheduled can be linked back to content in a previous blog titled Mindfulness is Essential for Teen Survival. In that blog, I discuss the obsession we have in our society with college prep.
A Hyperfocus on Where Kids Go to College
Somehow we have become hyperfocused on where our kids go to school that we kind of lose sight of what is important.
All our kids hear from day 1 of high school is how to get into a “good college.” Typically what is meant by “good college” is Ivy League or a college with high recognition.
Straight A’s Are Not Enough
What else do we also know about “good colleges?” It takes more than good grades to get in. It’s not enough to have straight As and high test scores. We drill it into teens that they need to have something that sets them apart. This could be a niche hobby or sports interest. They also need to take as many AP courses as possible, even though most colleges do not even seem to accept AP credit as much as they used to.
Setting Our Teens Up for Disappointment
I don’t know about you, but I feel my blood pressure rise just writing those words. How much pressure do you think teens feel when they learn that just being them is not enough? Also, how do you think they feel upon graduation? They find are college bound for state school and not going to what is considered a “good college?” A recipe for disappointment.
Even if these pressures are not explicit, you know from reading my article Death by Social Media that teens are very vulnerable to subtle messaging about what societal expectations are.
Stay with me okay? I know you may be thinking “This is about my teen, what do I have to do with it?”
You have a lot to do with it!
Because just like your teen, you are human too.
Over-Scheduling to Avoid Facing Trauma
You had a life long before your kids came around. That life may have involved abuse, sexual assault, impossible standards to live up to, domestic violence, community violence, natural disasters, war, substance abuse (either your own or someone in your family), and so many other potential capital “T” traumas and lower case “t” traumas that do not just disappear when you become a parent.
I think an under-recognized response to trauma is over-scheduling. We do this as a way to keep ourselves so busy that we have no time to think about our trauma.
Trauma Becomes the Norm
You may recall from the same blog post about capital “T” and lowercase “t” trauma how trauma gets stored in the body and shows up in ways that we do not typically associate with trauma. It just seems normal!
I have worked with kids whose parents had been in the military or worked as firefighters. Maybe they endured emotional abuse as children. Now they constantly cart their kids from soccer practice to ballet to karate to piano lessons. Then their kid starts showing signs of emotional distress so they come to me and counseling becomes another task on the to-do list.
A Productivity-Obsessed World
What makes this such a difficult response to become aware of is how common it is and how it is praised in our productivity-obsessed world.
So many adults are walking around as trauma victims. Whether it’s related to “T” trauma or “t” trauma. Because over-scheduling is more acceptable than doing drugs, it has become the most invisible symptom of trauma.
How Do We Break Free?
Believe it or not, it is possible to break the cycle of over-scheduling for both yourself and your kids.
It starts with AWARENESS!
I put it in all caps because it is really important to first know that this is a problem.
Being over-scheduled may not seem like a big problem. However, it is a silent beast that contributes to bigger problems over time. These include stress, sleep problems, anxiety, digestive problems, and so much more.
If you as a parent can become aware that over-scheduling may be a problem for your family, you can help those you care about see the bigger picture. You can create intentional time to stop and smell the flowers.
When we are over-scheduled, we miss out on the beauty in the world around us.
When teens are over-scheduled, they may not have time to stop and figure out who they really are as an individual.
Follow that up with DISCUSSING
Once you have the awareness that over-scheduling is a problem in your family’s life, you can use that power to bring others’ attention to it. Make it your mission to increase awareness of over-scheduling!
Untangle the Web
You definitely do not need to do this in an annoying way. Start by talking about your efforts to slow down and not over-schedule your family. Check-in on those around you. You can start to untangle the web of how normalized over-scheduling has become.
Introduce the word over-scheduled to your children, spouse, family members, and other moms and dads at the ballpark. If you notice someone you care about struggling with being over-scheduled, you can gently let them know that it’s okay to not do it all. Instead of contributing to the praise of productivity, contribute to acknowledging the strength it takes to say no to activities and rest.
Openly Discuss Over-Scheduling With Your Teen
Most importantly, discuss over-scheduling with your teen. Your teen may have enough agency in their schedule at some point that they are signing up for sports and clubs that you are as involved with. Check-in with them about how busy they are. Remind them that it is okay to come home from school and not have an obligation to be somewhere. Let your teen know that whatever path they choose, whether it’s a “good college,” state school, community college, a gap year, or no college at all, you will support them and be proud of them.
Final Step is MODELING
As I said in Death by Social Media, I do not mean Instagram modeling!
Kids and Teenagers Model Their Parent’s Behaviors
Kids and teenagers pick up on so much of their behavior from their parents. You may not think you have that big of an impact on the decisions your child makes, but you absolutely do!
Not only is it necessary to discuss over-scheduling with your teen, but it is also essential that you demonstrate what the opposite looks like.
Discover the Reason Behind the Need to Over-Schedule
You can start this by working to uncover why you feel drawn to over-scheduling. As I mentioned above, it may be related to unresolved trauma. Never underestimate the power that working on your own mental health has on your family.
I always say that families are like ecosystems. If you want change to occur with those around you, even positive change, it won’t happen unless you change.
The same goes for the flip side where someone in the ecosystem is struggling. It is a sign that all parts of the ecosystem are struggling as well.
Consider Counseling for Both Yourself and Your Teen
If you are seeking a therapist for your teen because they are anxious, stressed, or displaying other signs of emotional distress, you may also want to consider finding a therapist for yourself as well.
The good news about that is that Creative Counseling and Wellness, LLC will soon have new counselors added to the team that can provide counseling to parents while I or another counselor works with the teen. This will provide a collaborative, teamwork approach to improving the mental health of your ecosystem.
Begin Therapy for Teens in Metairie, LA Today!
If your teen is struggling with their mental health and it’s impacting their ability to fully live and enjoy life, Therapy for Teens at Creative Counseling and Wellness is here to help. As a Therapist, I have both personal and professional experience with these issues and am prepared to walk this journey of self-discovery with your teen. Follow the steps below to get started. Through ownership, balance, and practice, your teen can own the stage and the stage called life!
- Reach out to me via my convenient online contact form.
- Get to know more about me and my story here.
- Begin the journey to self-discovery and healing
Other Mental Health Services Offered at Creative Counseling and Wellness
I specialize in working with teens and their families. I work with a wide variety of individuals such as LGBTQ+ Teens, Teens with Anxiety, Theater Teens, Creative/Artistic Teens, Teens Questioning Gender Identity, High Achieving Teens, Teens with Social Anxiety, and Teens Struggling with Perfectionism. My own life and experience give me a unique perspective that lends itself to working with teens especially. Reach out today!