I finished up the session with Connor, my 9-year-old client, and walked out into the waiting room to meet with his mother. I updated her on how the treatment was going (he was struggling with intense anxiety and panic attacks), and then pulled out my blackberry to make another appointment. Connor’s mother quickly pulled out her phone and we started the typical appointment dance that goes on after a counseling session. I told her how busy I was the next week and how I really wished they could meet with me on a weekday morning. She informed me that would be impossible because of the client’s “advanced placement” math he was starting. She threw out a couple times that she was hoping for and I declined saying that I already had previous commitments. After several interchanges, we finally settled on the next appointment. Connor’s mother asked, “Connor, honey, does that time work for you?” Then, something happened that truly shocked me. Connor rummages through his backpack and pulls out his own smartphone and starts clicking through his own calendar. Turns out, Connor was busier than me and his mother put together. I think we were able to schedule an appointment around 3 weeks later.
We are living in a crazy messed up world. Since when do 9-year-olds have to keep their schedule on a blackberry? Since when do 9 year-olds even have schedules to keep? When I was nine, the most important appointment I had was with my football and about seven other buddies. Do you remember how we used to do life as children? We actually played. We ran around the yard and rode our bikes for hours. Now, I meet with children in my clinical office routinely who are overscheduled, overstressed, and missing out on being a kid!
If you want to help your kids live a little, create a margin in your families schedule. Here’s how you can do just that:
1. Make a list of four or five of the most important things in your life. If you had to, what would you choose to fill your family’s schedule with? What are the “main things” in the life of your family?
2. Now make a list of all the things that currently fill up your families schedule on a consistent basis. Include everything family members are committed to, like church services, the kids’ soccer games, work, meetings, volunteer activities, hobbies, school, working out, ministry activities, small group meetings, etc.
3. Is there an inconsistency between what you prioritize in theory and what you actually prioritize in real life? If so, go through your list in #2 and scratch out what you could actually eliminate from the family’s schedule that is not a real priority for your family based on your answer to #1.
4. Make a commitment to yourself that you will slowly begin to wean specific family members off the hectic schedule. Start by cutting out on an activity immediately. Then take an unprioritized activity off the schedule every month until they are gone.