Most afternoons my children come home from school with their backpacks loaded with homework assignments. They both play multiple sports, and it’s always an ongoing struggle to find a way to get it all done before bedtime.
More often than not, it’s a losing battle. As a result, the kids are up late into the night, trying to finish those last math equations or study their spelling words. In the morning they wake up tired, only to start the cycle all over again.
Most other families we know are struggling with the same problem. As our kids get older, their homework increases, while at the same time their coaches often start demanding longer and more frequent practices and training sessions.
To help my children better navigate the co-existing demands of school and sports, I recently decided to do some research on this issue. What I discovered surprised me. I found lots of articles and blogs written by psychologists and guidance counselors addressing this very topic. Although I expected that many experts would frown upon letting kids take on so many commitments, what I found was the reverse. Many of these experts saw real value in allowing children to apply themselves to athletics and other extra curricular activities.
In addition to the many health benefits of being active, there is also much to be learned on the golf course, football field, and gymnastics floor that supplements what happens in the classroom. For instance, young athletes can get a crash course in the importance of working as a team, training to master new skills, developing effective strategies, and setting goals. Better yet, all of these lessons can actually help improve kids’ grades and study habits.
In order to get these benefits, your children need to be able to handle the pressure involved. That’s where parents can help. They can play an important role in helping children manage their athletic commitments and homework and keep a clear head throughout the process.
Here is a rundown of some of the best tips I found for parents of busy kids:
Sit down with your child and make a schedule of all of your after-school commitments and figure out where homework will fit. Be creative. If time is short, it’s okay to have your child study in the car or bus on the way to a practice or to start homework during lunch or study hall. By planning ahead to fit it all in, your child won’t feel so overwhelmed.
Keep in close contact with your child to be sure he is thriving in the situation. Ask him how he feels and what he is enjoying or not enjoying. By talking with your child, you’ll get a sense of when he is in control, or when he is in over his head and may need to pare things down.
Stay on top of your child’s grades on homework and tests so you can be sure the quality of work isn’t suffering as a result of him being stretched too thin. If you find that grades are slipping, this can be a sign that it’s time to cut back for a bit.
Be sure to allocate family time for everyone to come together and bond. If evenings are too busy, you can sneak in some time on the weekend or even in the mornings. There is no rule about when you need to come together, but it’s important that school and sports don’t replace your family’s connection.
When life feels too rushed, figure out other activities your child can pass on to free up his schedule a little. Maybe he won’t be able to make it to a weekend party or special event; it’s a good lesson to learn that it’s okay not to do everything. By leaving some free time, he’ll be able to spend more quality time with family or friends and he’ll approach his sports and homework feeling refreshed.
While these tips can help you to find that precious balance between doing enough and doing too much, always keep in mind that you have to look at your individual situation. If despite your efforts your child seems to be struggling with sports and homework, don’t feel compelled to have it do it all. Your children are more likely to go on to college than they are to become a professional athlete, so if you need to make some choices of where your child should focus his attention, remember that school should always be the priority.
Finding a Balance Between School and Sports. (2013, September 16). Retrieved September 25, 2014, from UW Health
Williamson, J. (n.d.). Balancing Sports and Academics. Retrieved September 25, 2014, from HealthGuidance