Over-scheduling teenagers involves a number of effects that can lead to problems and complications for both teens and their parents. Teenagers throughout the country are over-scheduled with activities involving sports, clubs, advanced classes, homework, volunteerism, music and dance lessons, religious programs, part-time jobs and much more. Teenagers today are expected to perform hundreds of tasks in tight increments with no complaints, setbacks or repercussions.

The idea of the more relaxed and carefree teen years of yesteryear with time for leisure and play appears to have been replaced with the realities of over scheduling, hyper-scheduling, constant busyness and time away from family.

Problems with over-scheduling arise today because so many teens operate on a jam-packed schedule and overextend themselves to the point of nervous and physical exhaustion. Heightened stress, anxiety and other factors can lead to serious issues, which can result in giving up a schedule altogether, attempting to accomplish too much in a day’s time and fending off stress and associated physical ailments. It seems that any participation in activity that strays from the schedule, such as leisure time (unstructured time) is often characterized as slacking or laziness.

The effects of over-scheduling with teenagers can include:

• insurmountable stress
• possible cognitive dissonance (conflict in the mind)
• excessive multi-tasking
• tiredness and fatigue (driven to the point of exhaustion)
• physical/psychological symptoms (sleep deprivation, anxiety attacks, muscle fatigue, stomach problems, headaches, skin eruptions, and other illnesses)
• fear of in-completion/leaving something undone
• high parental expectations
• perfectionism (with every activity)
• living up to the impossible
• loss of true interest or enjoyment in all or any one activity – (doing it just to do it)
• loss of quality time with family
• loss of leisure, relaxation and hobby time
• little time if any to regroup and recoup

Parents of over-scheduled teenagers obviously want to avail their children of numerous activities in order to improve and enhance their teenager’s skill levels and talents for higher education placement, future advancement and careers that carry on into adulthood; however, what many parents fail to realize is that in their own aspirations for their children and high expectations of them, they are robbing their teenagers of the simple pleasures in life that make their children well-rounded adults.

In order to deal with over-scheduling and lessen its effects on teens, parents need to take a hard look at their children and what they really want for them in their lives. Do they want their children to be harried and nervous wrecks by the time they finish high school and move on to college, or do they want them to lead calm and successful lives as well-adjusted individuals who are able to take on tasks with common sense approaches rather than constantly being rushed to complete the impossible?

Parents can relieve the pressure and stress from their over-scheduled teenager through:

• Reducing the number of activities (by least important to critically important)
• Organizing and maintaining realistic and workable routines with reasonable time limits
•Limiting multitasking – completing one task at a time
•Scheduling personal free time and break times for leisure and hobbies
•Setting aside family time-(i.e., eating one sit-down meal together every day, playing interactive games together,etc.)
•Expecting less in the way of perfection and more in the way of completing a task in an efficient manner and to the best of the child’s ability
•Accepting that their teenager can accomplish just as much in life without being pressured to do the impossible at a hectic pace

Though not all teenagers are over-scheduled, those that are deserve to have access to coping mechanisms to deal with the effects of over-scheduling that both they and their parents can access.Coastal Kids Pediatrics in Orange County are happy to assist parents and teenagers regarding this issue and welcome any related comments or questions. Our qualified pediatric practitioners can be contacted for advice concerning over scheduling, and options to set teenagers on the path to healthy and productive scheduling.