A new study suggests that parents should be mindful of how much time their children are spending in extracurricular activities, such as music lessons and sports clubs.

The findings, published in the journal Sport, Education and Society, unveil the pressing social demand for kids to be involved in organized activities, and how it is placing unprecedented strain on families.

Researchers assert that a busy organized activity schedule can not only put excessive strain on family relationships and resources, but also potentially harm children’s development and well-being.

In an attempt to understand the impact children’s extracurricular activities is having on family life, researchers interviewed almost 50 families from twelve primary schools in North-West England.

They found that the majority of children (88 percent) were participating in organized activities four to five days per week, with 58 percent of the kids going to more than one activity in a single evening. Extracurricular activities were essentially found to dominate family life, especially for families with more than one child.

This had some quite negative results, as families were spending less quality time together, and parents’ money and energy reserves were often depleted. One mother referred to tired children who “don’t get in until 9 or 10 p.m.,” admitting that she was “sadly, over the moon” when an activity was canceled.

Explaining these findings, researchers pointed towards growing pressure from fellow parents, children, and schools for children to have a busy extracurricular schedule.

“We know that parents are particularly keen to ensure their children get on in life. Parents initiate and facilitate their children’s participation in organized activities as it shows that they are ‘good’ parents,” said lead author Dr. Sharon Wheeler.

“They hope that such activities will benefit their children in both the short-term (by keeping them fit and healthy, and helping them to develop friendship groups) and longer-term (by improving their job prospects).”

“However, our research highlights that the reality can be somewhat different. While children might experience some of these benefits, a busy organized activity schedule can put considerable strain on parents’ resources and families’ relationships, as well as potentially harm children’s development and well-being.”

At a time when families typically have more than one car and working moms have little extra time to spare, extracurricular activities have become a more convenient option than ever before, but Wheeler warns parents to be mindful of overdoing it.

“Raising awareness of this issue can help those parents who feel under pressure to invest in their children’s organized activities, and are concerned with the impact of such activities on their family, to have the confidence to plan a less hectic schedule for their children,” said Wheeler.

“Until a healthy balance is struck, extracurricular activities will continue to take precedence over family time, potentially doing more harm than good.”

Source: Taylor & Francis Group