How much is too much for young kids?

 

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Ballet recital for my daughter in royal blue before swimming took over their lives.

I read a question from a mom wondering what to do because her eight-year-old doesn’t love swim practice as much as the other activities she’s doing. She wondered if anyone else had experienced this and what she should do. She also mentioned that her daughter is really good at swimming, wins ribbons, and also has tons of other activities.

 

How many activities are too much for a child? From CNN several years ago I read “Overscheduled kids, anxious parents” by Josh Levs:

“Parents need to teach their kids to balance human doing with human being,” said clinical psychologist Paula Bloom.
Kids need to know they’re not defined by what they do, she said. They need time to play, experiment, rest and figure out who they are.
“As parents, we’ve got to get over our anxiety that we’re not doing enough. Creating a sense of safety, helping kids have confidence to try certain things, those are the things that matter.”
As kids get older, they’ll show you more and more what they’re interested in, Bloom notes.
And, yes, we all make mistakes.
“As adults, your kids are going to tell their therapists, ‘Oh my parents never let me play piano,’ or some other activity. It’s going to happen. Being able to tolerate that is really important.”

When my kids were little, I kept them really busy. We didn’t have a neighborhood where they could go out the door and play. We had to schedule playdates. Then we got into signing them up with their friends for countless activities like tennis, golf, ballet and swimming lessons. One mom would say she heard about an activity and wanted to sign her child up if mine did, too. Pretty soon, my kids didn’t have a night after school without a scheduled activity.

When I was a kid, I’d go home after school and after 30 minutes to an hour of homework, I didn’t have too much to do. I think a lot of downtime allowed me to be creative, reflective and of course, hit that list of chores that Mom always left us to do.

What did we do without structured activities? Sometimes, my brother and I would fight. But mostly we made forts in the woods, whacked out trails with machetes through blackberry brambles, and rode bikes around a three-mile loop. We were pretty active and unsupervised with our imaginations running wild.

Advice for the mom of the eight-year-old? I think eight years old is pretty young to be committed to one sport—especially if she’s not wildly passionate about it and wants to do something else. Let her experience a variety of activities. Maybe swim seasonally or take a break and go back to it. We can’t want it more than our kids.

There’s plenty of time at eight-years-old for a child to be a child. There’s plenty of time for a year-round commitment in the years ahead. And maybe it won’t be in swimming.

Here’s a list from Kidspot from Bron Maxabella from an article called “How many extra-curricular activities should kids do?”

Signs the kids have too much on:

However, there are signs that are madly flashing to say we’ve overstretched ourselves. They may even be saying that we’re heading for a giant crash. Here are some of them:

  • The kids have started digging in about not going to the classes I want them to go to (still happy to go to their choices though!).
  • Each week feels like I’m on the rat wheel, driving from one place to another and arranging one child to go in that direction and another to go over there. The logistics are making my head spin.
  • The kids are doing a lot of things, but not many of them at their full potential.
  • There is only one school night a week (Friday) when no one has anything on.
  • There is hardly any time to just hang out together or have a mate over after school – this is probably the worst thing of all.
  • We don’t have enough time in the week to get homework done satisfactorily.
  • The kids are getting emotional and naughty because they’re tired, so everyone is crying and yelling far more than they should be.
  • It is getting harder and harder for the kids to unwind at night and even harder for them to get up in the morning.

Basically, by mid-term everyone is exhausted and by end-of-term we’re in a bit of a mess! The kids are tired, I’m tired, the whole routine is tired. We need a proper time out!

 

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My kids did have time to play super heroes.

How many days a week should kids have activities and how do you determine what is too much?

 

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How not to raise quitters

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Piano duet at a yearly recital.

In an article called “My mom’s one sports rule? No quitting,” by Samantha K. Smith on espnW.com, I remembered the t-shirts one of my all-time favorite swim dads came up with for the Piranha Swim Team, “Winners never quit, Quitters never win.” We wore those shirts with pride for years.

From the article:

 

“When it came to giving her children unsolicited sports advice, our mother got a lot of flack from her five kids who knew her experience was limited. The one and only story she told of her high school cheerleading days was about how the front of her skirt was longer than the back because the girl who’d previously worn it was pregnant. So we often went to Dad for help with our free throw or pitching form; we went to Mom for rides to practice, trips to the mall for new sneakers, and to locate the water bottle stash. Our mother worked late nights at the YMCA for our discounted memberships and paid our uniform and league fees without question each season. But she had one strict, abiding rule when it came to signing up for a new sport: There was no quitting.

“This was why I had new, never-worn softball gear hanging in my closet for the duration of high school. I’d ordered the uniform but remembered Mom’s tenet: If I was unsure whether I could make the full commitment, I shouldn’t officially sign on to the team.

“Now I walk into the basketball gymnasiums of my childhood and see parents storming off with their children after a bad referee call, or children quitting teams midseason because of playing time. In an age of helicopter parenting and participation trophies, my mother set out to teach us one of her most valuable lessons about commitment. If you make one, you see it through even if, and especially when, it’s not playing out favorably for you.”

I did let my son quit a few sports, but only because we had him overbooked with “if this is Tuesday it must be tennis” running from one end of the valley and back to get from piano lessons to the court. During a stressful rushing afternoon, I hit a curb, got a flat tire and realized that enough was enough. Eventually, we settled on a single sport and music. Our routine and life went swimmingly well from then on.

I interviewed the Anderson family for an article in SwimSwam magazine. The Andersons have three daughters, two are Olympic medalists and the youngest currently swims for a D1 university. The mom also had the same rule as the writer above. She said that each year she’d sign the girls up for swimming with the understanding that they were committing for the year. When the weather was no longer perfect sunny and warm and one of them asked to quit, she’d remind them that they had agreed for the year. When the new season started, it was once again warm and beautiful outside and her daughters would commit again.

There’s something to be said for sticking through it all—so long as the situation isn’t abusive or dangerous. A lot of life lessons can be learned when things aren’t perfect.

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Once we settled on one sport, things began to go swimmingly.

What is your rule for your kids and activities? Do you make them stick with it through the season? Did your parents have a “never quit” rule?

A Word of Advice for Sports Parents: “Chill”

 

 

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Our gorgeous Palm Springs pool.

I volunteered a couple hours at my swim team’s big November meet. It’s been three years since I’ve had a swimmer at that meet and the distance of time allows me to look at parents and swimmers through a different lens.

Wow. Do parents ever get worked up watching their kids swim! I observed some parents running around the pool deck, yelling and visibly shaking. I was worried a few would have heart attacks. I acted exactly the same way years ago and I still get nervous and worked up. But I don’t show it as much, anymore. I believe it’s newer parents who are the most anxious because it’s all new to them and confusing. Give them a few years, and they’ll probably relax a bit.

One woman frantically came to the admin tent and said in a panicked voice—bordering on hysteria—“I can’t find my son! I don’t know where he is! Help me find my son!”

My friend, who was running things for the parent volunteers under the tent, asked in a very calm voice, “Please, tell me how old is your son?”

“Twelve.”

“Twelve,” my friend repeated. We managed to keep straight faces. If it was a child of say five or six, there might be a reason for a mom to panic. Well, not a real reason to panic, but the anxiety would be more understandable.

“Do you know where he is supposed to be?” my friend, who is also a psychologist, asked. Her calm approach led me to believe she faces many hyped-up parents in her practice. The frantic mom said he was swimming the 200 fly and she couldn’t find him with her coach or warming up. She asked us to have him paged to report to the admin tent.

“Do you want to give him a little time? If we announce for him to come to the admin tent to meet his mother, he’s going to be embarrassed,” she told her.

“Really? Why would he be embarrassed?” the mom asked.

We didn’t have an answer to that. We had a deck marshal assist the mom walking around the pool deck and into the men’s bathroom to help find her son. I never heard a word after that, so I’m assuming her son made it to his event and back to her side.

Another thing I noticed this past weekend was that the space behind the blocks can get really hectic. That sign that says “Swimmers Only” means just that. It doesn’t mean “Swimmers Only and Me the Swimmer’s Parent Because I’m an Exception to the Rule.” It’s amazing how many parents ignore the sign, have to be told to leave the “Swimmers Only” area and a few want to argue about it. Once again, it’s interesting to look at this from a distance, when a few years ago, I was the one trying to stand behind the blocks with a water bottle and towel for my kids.

I’m reminded of advice I received from Ref Paul on more than one occasion, “Relax, have fun. It’s just a swim meet.”

 

 

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The pool deck during a meet with the “Swimmers Only” area behind the blocks.

 

Why do you think we get so worked up over our children’s athletic performances?

 

 

 

 

 

How ballet and swimming are eerily the same

 

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My daughter didn’t want to be a ballerina. She wanted to swim!

There was a period of time in my life when I danced. I was as passionate about ballet as my daughter is about swimming. Today I had lunch with a fellow Catholic school mom, who not only was a mentor to me with two older children in our school, but she was one of my ballet instructors, too. I haven’t talked to her for what seems forever–except for a chance meeting at the grocery store.

Her life forever changed when my husband was urging me to put away my computer and go to work with him. I confessed to my mentor/ballet teacher that I wanted to write, not work as a stockbroker. We were sitting across the long tables in the school gym at some parent meeting.

“I’ll do it!” she said. I looked at her in disbelief. She was a former Broadway dancer, a soloist in the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular and a former ballerina. Why would she want to enter into the financial world? But she did it. She went to work in my husband’s office and I went on with writing.

But what a mistake I made. I lost my ballet class. A special time in my life when my kids were both in elementary school, I spent several days a week in the dance studio with Elyssa, my teacher. There weren’t many of us, but it was a wonderful group. I told her today that it reminds me of my Masters swim group.

Here are a few things that ballet and swimming have in common:

• While you’re working out you do keep an eye out to see what everyone else is doing.

• We have great conversations with our instructor and each other (yes, we do in Masters, too, with a firm reminder by our coach to “keep moving” if the chat lasts too long while we linger at the wall.)

• We became a close-knit group in ballet class and were supportive of one another—just like my Masters group. We had a bonding moment at the start of class while we laid on the floor stretching. That’s when we could talk and share what was going on in our lives.

• Like Masters, we had a warm-up, went through some drills (combinations at the barres) and then the main set in the pool, or in ballet class when put the barres away and move to the center.

• In ballet, we ended with jumps, just like we end with a short kick set in the pool. Then the reverence to end the class reminds me of the warm down laps before I push myself out of the pool.

• Both swimming and ballet are very physically demanding and challenging. They both require a lot of inside the brain time, too—and they offer a release and an escape from all the other stuff going on in one’s life.

Interesting that I’ve realized I’m dancing in the pool. I haven’t changed that much after all, except I’ve found swimming is better for my knees.12745503_10209017757384931_7005852646538628157_n

What type of exercise do you find the most rewarding and how does it make a difference in your life?

5 Things That Affect Academics

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My daughter swimming with club teammates during break at the home pool.

I received a letter from my daughter’s University — The Center for Student Wellness — with interesting information for parents of children of all ages.

They said in the letter that they’ve found on their campus five main issues that affect academics:

  1. Stress
  2. Anxiety
  3. Work
  4. Sleep
  5. Cold/flu/sore throat

imgresThe letter went on to explain that while sleep is fourth on the list, sleep affects everything else on the list. I’m not quite sure how they distinguish “stress” from “anxiety”  because they seem to go hand in hand. However, they state that lack of sleep can be mistaken for stress–which in turn can lead to anxiety. That can make your student more susceptible to getting sick–which also will affect academics. They suggest seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Then your child will be in a better mood. Plus, they will score higher on tests and keep a higher GPA!

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As the parent of swimmers, my kids were good sleepers. My daughter still swims and she has no problem falling asleep. Ever. 

My tip for getting enough sleep is simple: Swim! It even works for me. I feel so much better after a good night’s sleep and I’m likely to get more work done and have a positive attitude.

Here are the tips from the University of Utah on getting a good night’s sleep:

  1. Go to bed around the same time every night, and wake up around the same time each morning.
  2. Have a quiet, dark space to sleep in that is not too hot or cold.
  3. Be sure to remove distractions like televisions, iPods, computers, and tablets from bedrooms. Beds shouldn’t be used for activities like reading, watching movies, or listening to music.
  4. Begin powering down lights and electronics about an hour before bed.
  5. Avoid large meals, nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol right before bed.
  6. Limit naps to 20-30 minutes a day.
  7. Engage in regular physical activity.

BINGO! There is it. Number seven. If you have a child in athletics — particularly swimming — your child will sleep. Maybe that’s why they say that swimmers have the highest GPAs of all sports? Even though they get up at the crack of dawn for practice–they’ve had a full night’s sleep.

My kids during break.

My kids during break.

 

How does sleep or lack of sleep affect your day?

One Tip for Parents: Don’t Speak

 

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My daughter swimming on her own during vacation.

I read a great article, “The first rule of sports (and all) parenting: Don’t speak,” in the Washington Post by Nancy Star:

 

Your child doesn’t have to play in the Super Bowl for you to know the feeling. Their team was supposed to win and then they didn’t. What do you do? Being the mother of two girls who played soccer and ran track, I thought I knew the answer: Talk it through. Tell them you love them. Say it’s just a game. Remind them there’s always a next time. Isn’t that what good parenting is all about? Keeping channels of communication open even in tough moments?

Turns out the answer is no. I learned this when I had a “don’t speak” moment.

I understand this all too well. After my kids would have a disappointing swim, I’d try to reassure them. I wanted to take away their hurt and make them feel better. Most often after I’d say, “That wasn’t so bad,” or “You have another swim ahead,” I’d be met with negativity and a statement like “I sucked!”

I’d get a barrage of negativity that would take me by surprise. I never figured out that I wasn’t making it better for my kids, but was making them feel worse. They weren’t ready to talk about a bad swim with me and “hash and rehash,” as my daughter would say. I read in a David Benzel sports parenting book, “From Chump to Champ,” that we should wait for our kids to talk to us. We need to be there and listen. But, if we start the conversation first, even with the best intentions, they’ll probably pull away and stay quiet. They want to please us so much and may take any little thing we say personally, as though they’ve let us down. It’s best to be quiet and listen. They may surprise us and open up more than ever if we let them take the lead.

Here’s more from the Washington Post article with the mom watching her daughter’s varsity soccer team lose their final meet. She received advice from a dad, Peter, who had more experience with soccer parenting and she followed it.

“Their lead slipped to a tie toward the end of the second half. In the last minute of play there was a stumble, scrambling and a goal for the other team.

Parents supplied transportation for home games, so we waited while our daughters gave sullen high-fives to the winners and then huddled with their coach, listening as he shared his disappointment. When he was done they separated and, backpacks slung over shoulders, trudged across the field toward where we stood.

Watching their grim faces approach I wished a meteorologist were present to confirm my suspicion that 22 high school girls who’ve just lost a chance at a state title can change the atmosphere, collectively sucking the light out of the sky. Their fury was frightening.

But Peter had been through this before. “Don’t speak,” he said. As I started to turn my head he added, “Don’t look. Just walk. Go to your car. She’ll find you.”

I tried not to move my lips as I objected. “All I want to say is I’m sorry.”

“Don’t,” he advised. “Don’t speak. Not until she talks to you.”

Because he had been through this before, I listened and walked to my car alone. I felt her before I saw her, walking silently beside me. Reassuring phrases immediately formed in my brain but, channeling Peter, I said nothing.

A moment later I noticed her teammates walking with their parents, mothers mostly, who offered words of consolation. “Are you okay?” and “You played well,” and “There’s always next time.” To me the words sounded gentle and kind.

The girls did not agree. “No,” they snapped, and “I sucked,” and “There won’t be a next time.”

By the time we reached the car, every daughter except mine was crying and the moms were, understandably, annoyed and lashing back. “Why are you yelling at me?” and “Being upset is no excuse for being rude.”

We were silent on the ride home, silent as I turned on to our street. It was when I pulled into the driveway that my daughter finally spoke. “That was such a bad game.”

I nodded.”

How do you handle your children’s athletic or academic disappointment?

 

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Cheering on a teammate at the PAC 12 Champs.

 

 

Enjoy it while it lasts!

 

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Afternoon walk with Waffles in Salt Lake City.

Today while packing up after a fun weekend in Salt Lake City, where we went to two meets to watch my daughter swim and hang out with friends, I realized this part of my life is almost over. I checked the swim schedule to see what meets she has left and we’re down to only a few.

This weekend, I reconnected with a swim mom dear friend who has a son starting his freshman year. It was like no time has passed since we last sat together at a meet — rather than six or seven years. We also visited my husband’s best childhood friend, Pastor Scott McKinney and his wife Sara, who have made this area their home and founded a church, Centerpoint Church in Orem. After his powerful service, we sat together at lunch laughing so hard we cried as well as solemnly discussing the world’s problems. It’s been a highlight to reconnect with these friends, visit our daughter — and enjoy this part of the country.

I felt more than a little sentimental this morning. I like it here. I like the hotel we stay in, the Little America, like it’s a second home. I like their coffee shop because it brings back memories of my childhood with their comfort food of open-faced turkey and roast beef sandwiches with mashed potatoes and gravy and their weekend prime rib specials. I like the cool crisp weather, the spectacular views and changing fall colors of the leaves. I like the tall buildings downtown, where you’ll find the City Creek Center with its glass ceilings. I like the friendliness of the people and the clean bright city, which has a small town feel.

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Beautiful views from City Creek Center.

 

It seems like we just moved our daughter in for her freshman year. She got a notice Friday that she’s been accepted to study abroad for her last bit of school, so we’re already thinking about moving her stuff out and driving her car home. How weird is that? Especially when I say we just moved her up here! At least it feels like that.

When my kids were toddlers, older women would stop me at the mall or on the street and say, “Enjoy it while you can, because the time flies by.” Knee deep in the daily grind of bottles, baby food, diapers, laundry, endless picking up toys and chasing little ones, I couldn’t relate. Now I believe it and understand. Enjoy the swim team or whatever activities your child is in like it’s their last meet. Enjoy the visits to their college town. It’s over in a blink of an eye. And will you really go back without them there?

It’s not like I thought it would last forever, I just thought four years would take a bigger chunk of time.

How have you noticed time flying by?

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My daughter at the blocks at the HPER Natatorium.