Students face ongoing challenges. Whether it’s dealing with balancing the demands of school, sports teams, clubs, or family life, the average student is under a great deal of stress. According to data from the US Census Bureau, 57 percent of children between 6 and 17 years old participate in at least one after school extra-curricular activity. For children, extracurricular activities can be an essential and rewarding part of growing up. Extracurriculars have been associated with skill building, positive socialization, improved academics, and elevated mood. However, when kids begin to feel overwhelmed with all the extracurriculars, it can lead to burnout.
In “Extracurricular Activity in High-Performing School Contexts: Stress Buster, Booster or Buffer?” researchers Jerusha Conner, Denise Pope and Sarah Miles suggest that 20 hours a week of extracurricular activities is generally where health issues and burnout begin to occur in children. In a survey of nearly 9,000 kids, 69% of the children surveyed reported feeling stressed out due to having to manage their lives around school work. Moreover, Ned Hallowell, author of Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, says that when parents over-do it with extracurricular activities and expectations, their kids suffer. He suggests that parents use common sense when thinking about what activities their kids can handle. They should ensure that they truly have their children’s overall best interest in mind, not just their academic or sports career. If not, the results can be detrimental, as burnout can affect children’s self-esteem as well as boost their anxiety and depression levels.
What You Can and Should Do
Ensure that your child is not burdened by their responsibilities. Ask them questions, pay attention to their behavior, and watch for signs of burnout. Remember that they are only children once, and that their experiences should be based on their developmental level. If possible, let them choose extracurriculars that they enjoy, and if they do not like them, provide them with incentive to keep going. They should be given an equal amount of down time. Denise Pope created the acronym PDF, which stands for playtime, downtime, and family time. They need PDF every day, particularly those with busy schedules. Some of the signs include:
- They become apathetic
- They begin to develop emotional outbursts
- Anxiety and Fear
- Trouble Concentrating
- Their self-esteem plummets
Recognizing the signs of burnout is the first step in allowing you to not only have open discussion with your child about how they are feeling, but also make collaborative changes that can benefit them holistically. Because, like adults, children burn-out too.
Conner, J., Pope, D., & Miles, S. (2013, April 28). Extracurricular Activity in High- Performing School Contexts: Stress Buster, Booster or Buffer? Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA.
Hallowell, E. M. (2002). The childhood roots of adult happiness: Five steps to help kids create and sustain lifelong joy. Ballantine Books.
US Census Bureau (2014). Nearly 6 in Every 10 Children Participate in Extracurricular Activities. https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2014/cb14-224.html