Question by Anonymous:
Admittedly, my children are a little over scheduled. However, my husband and I have chosen to expose our kids to a variety of activities, and even though it makes things hectic at times, we like it that way. My in-laws do not seem to agree that my kids need to be in so many activities, and are pretty vocal about it. What is a nice way to tell them to mind their own business? On another note, their criticism makes me feel a little insecure. What are your thoughts on the appropriate amount of activities kids should be in?
Answer by Dr. Laviage:
You raise really important questions that are not only about your relationship with your in-laws, but about parenting, and your relationship with your children, as well. The much debated topic of overscheduled kids has been addressed repeatedly – most notably in the 2010 documentary Race to Nowhere. Several research studies have aimed to identify the question of how much is too much activity, but to make matters more confusing, the results are mixed. While some identify the harmful effects of kids being too busy – mainly loss of valuable sleep and parents pushing activities favorable to them, not the child – other studies promote the positive effects of being in up to 20 hours of organized activity. These activities are often viewed as fun and enjoyable by the child, a break from school/studying, and a chance to interact with other children. So, it is important for you to pay attention to (1) are your children having fun in their activities, (2) do they still have time to engage in self-care such as proper diet and sleep habits, and (3) can you effectively manage their activities so that you are not functioning as a chronically stressed out mom (or dad)? If you answer yes to all of these questions, then I think it is important to relay the same information to your in-laws. You have already identified an important value for you and your husband by stating you “ have chosen to expose” your children to a “variety of activities.” When you feel confident about a parenting value, it is important to claim it, own it, and let others know it is a choice you are making freely and with full awareness of any positive or negatives that may come from it. Try sounding as confident when you talk with your in-laws as you do in the way you formulated your question, and you should be able to diminish any insecurity. Regardless, some uncertainty is a good thing – it causes us to continue to evaluate our decisions and modify our choices. As parents, we aim to do the best we can – no one is perfect. Not even your MIL.