Too-Busy Teens

School…sports…work. How much is too much for teenagers?

Janet Harrington, the mother of three adolescent daughters, knows how exhausting it can be trying to juggle their schedules.

“Everybody’s going in a different direction,” she said. “Since time goes by so fast, you want to make sure that they stay connected to each other.

She sought advice at a presentation at Naperville Central High School where clinical psychologist Nancy Rivas explored the importance of making healthy choices in an overly scheduled society.

“One of the reasons we struggle with prioritizing our time is because it’s a grey area,” Rivas said. “It’s really a values judgment and there’s a lot of different decision-making issues involved.”

Rivas discussed different factors to consider when making those decisions about extracurricular activities, like first asking, “Does the activity fit with the child’s personality?”

“Your little extraverts need to have more times with their friends,” she said. “Your little introverts need time to recharge at home.”

Other things to consider:
-Does the activity serve an appropriate purpose?
-What are the sacrifices or trade-offs in terms of time, energy, and relationships?
-How does this affect the dynamics and values of the entire family?

She says many times, an exhaustive schedule for teens can take a toll on parents as well.

“If the parents are so prone to sacrifice so much for their kids and willing to do so much for what’s best for their kids, then you can end up burnt out,” said Rivas. “You can end up frustrated [and] exhausted, and you’re not providing a good role model of taking care of yourself.”

Rivas also advises parents to involve their kids in the decision-making process, and the best way to do so is to ask them questions.

“When your kid comes home with a request, instead of telling them what to do, ask them, ‘Okay, well how do you think that’ll affect your sleep, your homework, your sister, your friendships,’” she said.

The presentation is part of a whole series of free parent education programs for district 203. The next program on February 11th will discuss teenage depression and anxiety.

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