Many things in life bring joy when you have kids: the reaction your child has to the sound of crunching leaves, fun family game nights arguing about the legitimacy of house rules, and the way they light up when they do activities they love. So how do you know when to say “no” to adding more kid activities to your schedule? Every child and family is different, so here’s what other military spouses had to share about how they choose when to say “yes” and when to say “no.”
Is there a spark or passion?
Air Force spouse Lindsey, a mom of six, talks about the perks of going with the flow, “Our oldest did color guard in high school, but the younger four aren’t really into sports. When they were younger, we tried, but it wasn’t a fit for them. We are pretty active as a family, so I don’t push them to do things they don’t want to, and it allows us more time together!”
There are only 24 hours in a day.
Not only do you need to think about drive time to get to activities, but you should ask: how often and how long do they practice, where around town, and what other commitments does your child or family have? Homework, school, meals, sleep, family time, and quiet time are all essential for a healthy child, and each also takes time.
Civilian Chelsea H. navigates the time restrictions with her daughter, “Our oldest can do two activities, but at least one must be something that gets her moving. Budget, schedule, and capacity to give it your best effort are factors. This year she wanted to join the band at school, and she wanted to do it but not so much that she was willing to sacrifice other activities to practice at home regularly. She ultimately didn’t join band.”
When your pocket money says otherwise.
Many parents I talked to cited budget as a factor in choosing activities. Budgets can flex with the time of year, living expenses, your number of kids, or if you are a single parent. Some activities have fundraisers, or there may be alternative options, club soccer vs. school soccer vs. neighborhood games. Another option is to do one activity per season to space out the costs.
Air Force Spouse Tara talks about how she makes it work with three kids, “Budget is a contributing factor, but we haven’t met anything yet we couldn’t handle. We also reuse a lot of our equipment with our kids and give it to families when we are done. We have been blessed to receive the same kindness back.”
Is it available?
As much as your child may want to do rugby, there may not be a place to participate where you are stationed (especially stateside). Location doesn’t only matter when buying a house; it impacts what activities may be available. MilHousing Network can connect you to a realtor who can help you find a home in your desired school district so your kid can join in on robust after-school programs and sports.
What are the benefits?
What skills do you want your children to cultivate? Kids can learn teamwork both on the field and in a decathlon group. However, learning to swim requires doggy paddling, even if it’s not anyone’s favorite.
Erin, an Army wife, shares how they think about the life skills their four daughters will need, “We factor in the impact it can have on their futures. For instance, the girls did swim lessons over the summer because it’s such an important skill (with added social-emotional positive impacts), so we tightened the budget in other places to be able to do that.”
Cat H., an Air Force spouse, shared additional questions they use to weigh choices after the pandemic put things into perspective, “Any activity has to be yes to ALL of these things below, as well as work within our standard (budget, time, joy) checklist:
Is it safe?
Is it kind?
Is it healthy for our body and mind?
If all of those are a ‘yes,’ I’ll make it work within my budget.”
There are many things to consider when saying “no” to adding kids’ activities to your schedule, and each family has to make their own decisions for what is right for them, at their current base, with their kids. Talk to your kids, and start a conversation about what activity guidelines look like for your family.
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