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The Importance of Helping Our Kids Find & Practice Balance

(3-minute read) For most parents, the transition from summer to school is not easy – despite the fact that we do it year after year.  During the summer there’s ample time to incorporate various activities into our lives, but during the school year there don’t seem to be enough hours to get to everything, like jobs, families, exercise, local community involvement, social engagements  and various other commitments. And during the summer it doesn’t take much effort to ensure that our children have a little bit of everything  fun, physical activities, screen time, family time, unstructured play, etc.  But the moment school starts, the verb “juggling” often more accurately reflects what we are doing on a daily basis.  Finding a way to balance everything in order to lead happy, fulfilling, healthy lives is far from easy. It takes practice, effort and hard work.

Not only do we want and need to live balanced lives, our children do too. Kids actually want balance in their lives. They need balance. They thrive with balance. It is critical that they learn the concept of finding balance in their lives at an early age. And it is our responsibility as parents to teach and model this for them.

From September to June, our kids spend over 6 hours a day in school. By default, the scales naturally start tipping more towards school, homework, projects, clubs…you get the point. But as important as it is that our children are dedicated to school and put in the time and effort to learn and succeed, it is equally as important to help them find other sources of growth outside of school.

Think of it like this: life is just one, big, mouthwatering pizza. But what exactly makes a pizza so great? The combination of various ingredients.  Now, imagine ordering in a pizza from your favorite place, and opening the box to find a big slab of nothing but the crust. How disappointing, and boring!  

If we continue with this metaphor, school is the crust to your child’s pizza: the primary ingredient needed to build a delicious pie.  The parts of the pizza that provide the flavor and enjoyment (and make this a staple in nearly everyone’s lives) are all of the other toppings. That’s what makes a pizza, well…pizza.

In the same way that pizza needs extra stuff to balance out the crust, your kids need to balance out their schedules with different aspects crucial to development. That includes family time, adequate sleep, time to relax, exercise / fitness, alone time, hanging out with friends, and other activities like sports, religious school, music, art.   Through participation in these activities children can apply what they learn in school and test their skills. They develop critical social and emotional skills that will serve them well throughout their lives. In other words, balance is the key to life.

Unfortunately, there’s no formula when it comes to how much of these things children need. Which specific activities and how much time spent on each differ based on the needs of each families, much in the same way that not everybody prefers the same kind of pizza. Thin crust? Deep dish? Extra cheese? Fresh tomatoes? Pepperoni? All of them?  Even if some people enjoy their pizza the same, the ratio of toppings to crust may not be the same.

That’s the beautiful thing about life, and about kids. They are each unique and special in their own way.  But sometimes they need some help figuring out how to balance their lives — how to make the most of their talents, hobbies, strengths, and weaknesses. The best way to do that is by trying out different things and switching it up. When else in their lives will they have the ability to do that without much care or repercussions?  Perhaps more importantly is the need to help them prioritize the things that suits them (or, to keep the analogy going, palette). All of our kids have their own special blend of toppings. The job of a parent is to help them perfect it. Regardless of the ingredients, I am confident that finding and practicing balance is key to enjoyment.

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