You might think that enrolling your child in countless after-school clubs will enrich their lives, whether it be learning an instrument or playing a sport. But a new study suggests all that taxi-ing to and from these activities is actually placing too much strain on families.
A study, published in journal Sport, Education and Society, found extracurricular involvement “dominates” family life and potentially harms children’s development, especially for families with more than one child.
The study’s lead author, Dr Sharon Wheeler said: “We know that parents are particularly keen to ensure their children get on in life - parents initiate and facilitate their children’s participation in organised activities as it shows that they are ‘good’ parents. However, our research highlights that the reality can be somewhat different. A busy organised activity schedule can put considerable strain on parents’ resources and families’ relationships, as well as potentially harm children’s development and wellbeing.”
Researchers interviewed almost 50 families from 12 primary schools in North-West England. They found the majority of children (88%) took part in organised activities on four to five days per week, with 58% doing more than one in an evening.
Because of this, families were spending less quality time together, and parents’ money and energy reserves were often depleted. One mother referred to “knackered” children who “don’t get in until 9 or 10pm”, admitting that she was “sadly, over the moon” when something was cancelled.
Researchers said mums and dads feel growing pressure from fellow parents, children, and schools, for children to have a busy extracurricular schedule.
Wheeler warned 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 organised 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,” she said.
“Until a healthy balance is struck, extracurricular activities will continue to take precedence over family time, potentially doing more harm than good.”