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Overscheduled Child



Our daughter is taking dance, swimming and piano. My ex says she is taking too many activities and wants to see it cut back. I think he just doesn't want her to have fun. How should I handle this?


You have two issues to deal with here. The first is whether or not all your daughter's activities are also interfering in her time with her father. If so, then that is a problem in and of itself. Extra-curricular activities should not interfere with parenting time and I will come back to this later.

With regard as to whether or not the three activities are too much for your 6-year-old, depends on if she can maintain her other responsibilities and still have time for unstructured play and even relaxation.

If you feel harried trying to get your child hither and yon for her activities, this is a sign that perhaps you and she are taking on too much. In the same fashion as you wouldn't want your daughter to gorge on food, we actually do not want her to gorge on activities either - even if fun.

We want children to learn to pace themselves so that as adults they do not take on more than what is truly manageable, otherwise too much fun and too many activities leads to stress and burnout. We want children to learn to use unstructured time for play. Play helps develop imagination and creativity. Relaxation is a skill vital for stress relief, something that will be increasingly important as children age. We also want children to learn to plan and delay gratification so they do not take all their fun activities at one time, but must pick, chose and prioritise and plan -vital skills for school performance and adult living.

The other value of play and relaxation is that it also helps children cope with "alone time". They are thus able to positively occupy their own time and sooth and relax themselves when need be.

As for the father, while it may be your perception he is undermining his and your daughter's fun, he may just be equally concerned for finding balance among activities, play and recreation and having a place in his daughter's life. When sorting out the next round of activities, use today's article to open up a conversation on these issues. Typically when parents agree on their child's extracurricular activities, both are more supportive and the child actually gains more from the cooperation of the parents than the activities attended!


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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
(905) 628-4847  


Gary Direnfeld is a social worker in private practice. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider Gary an expert on child development, parent-child relations, marital and family therapy, custody and access recommendations, social work and an expert for the purpose of giving a critique on a Section 112 (social work) report.


Call Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops.


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