Teenage years are a time to experiment, explore, and find out who you are as a person. This makes it tempting for us parents to expose our teens to as many different hobbies, sports, and activities as possible, but is there a downside to packing their days full of experiences? Can your teenager be overscheduled?
We get to the bottom of this and find out what you can do to keep your teen trying new things without overscheduling your teenager.
The Value of Free Time
Before we delve into the signs of overwhelm in teens, we first want to establish that free time isn’t a bad thing. We all want our teenagers to keep busy and lead healthy, active lives, so when we see them on the couch watching Netflix our first instinct is usually to convince them to get up and do something. If they spend all their time vegging out, this is totally valid, but if they’re generally an active person, it can be valuable to let them enjoy some downtime.
Packing your teen’s days full of activities and tasks, even if they enjoy them, doesn’t allow them to practice any independence or self-exploration. Free time is where your teen could learn the most about themselves, rather than just spending their days going through the motions, doing as they’re told.
Without this free time, they could begin to feel overwhelmed.
How to Tell if Your Teenager is Overscheduled
They Can’t Sleep
One of the most obvious signs that your teenager is overscheduled is if they aren’t sleeping well. Teenagers need a lot of sleep. If stress is getting in the way of their sleep it could cause them to not function well during the day and even harm their development.
They are Withdrawing From Their Friends
If your teenager is usually a social butterfly and suddenly starts spending all their free time alone, this can be a sign of overwhelm. It may not seem like it, but spending more time watching TV or Youtube videos can be an indication that their schedule is too busy.
This is because they are so overwhelmed that they don’t have the brain space available to face social interaction with friends, opting to veg out alone instead which takes little to no effort.
They Have No Downtime
If your teen has no downtime whatsoever, this is a clear sign that they are probably overscheduled. While we all want our kids to be active and well rounded, there is value in them having their own free time to fill however they choose.
Keep an Eye Out For Excuses
Sometimes, when your teenager says they can’t go out with friends because they need to study, they are being responsible with their time management. If this happens constantly, however, that’s when it could potentially be an issue.
Keep an eye out for excessive excuse-making. If a teenager is overscheduled, their overwhelm can make them shut down and believe everything is too hard. This can get to the point where they have an excuse to get out of everything, even just to go out to dinner with the family or play a board game.
They Won’t Tell You What’s Wrong
If you can tell that your teenager is upset by something, but they won’t communicate with you about what it is, chances are they’re having trouble processing it themselves. This can be because they are overwhelmed. If they’re constantly going from one task to the next, juggling multiple responsibilities, they may not have the time to breathe and process their emotions at the end of each day.
What to Do if you Have Overscheduled Your Teenager
Cull Their Schedule
Do you think your teenager might have a little too much going on? The first step is to look at your teen’s schedule and see what you can get rid of. Is there a sport they have given a good go, but never truly enjoyed? Is there a club they are in that always seems to cause them stress and anxiety?
This is all about finding balance. You don’t want to get rid of too much because it is beneficial for teenagers to challenge themselves and face mild adversity as they develop. Use your intuition to determine what’s worth seeing through and what can be cut from the list.
Take Away the Responsibility, Keep the Fun
If you don’t want to cut anything from your teenager’s schedule, you can take away some of the overwhelm by shouldering any burden that comes with certain activities.
It’s important for teens to learn responsibility, so we aren’t suggesting you do their homework for them or pack their school bag. What can be helpful is little things like packing lunches and keeping everything organised so there isn’t a frantic last-minute scramble to find the tennis gear or today’s homework.
The last tip to helping your teen with their overwhelm is to work on their time management skills. If they leave their schoolwork to the last minute, they are of course going to be overwhelmed by the fact that they have soccer practice the night before a big assignment is due. Block out study times during the week so that your teenager can keep on top of their work without stressing about it while they are at their activities.
Knowing how to recognise when your teenager is overscheduled can prevent serious issues such as burnout and panic attacks down the road. If your teen seems overwhelmed and our tips daren’t working, consider taking them to see a doctor or mental health provider to help them manage their emotions and time.