It’s a busy world. Moms have schedules, dads have schedules and yes, children have schedules. There are many children whose after-school schedule for a week may look something like this: Monday – sport/ team practice; Tuesday – music lesson; Wednesday – sport/ team practice; Thursday – language lesson, and sport/team practice; Friday – academic tutoring (not remediation, but rather “get ahead” tutoring.)
This is almost a “light” schedule! Of course in addition to all of these after school “scheduled activities” there has to be time to do homework, eat, sleep, take care of personal hygiene and oh yes, maybe do a household chore or two.
Then there are the weekends, which go something like this: Saturday – sport’s game; Sunday – organized religion/spiritual day—or…another sport’s game. Of course in addition to the weekend’s “scheduled activities” there needs to be time appropriated for social functions that come up such as parties, family obligations, etc. Time also needs to be set aside so that chores can be done and contributions can be made to the household in an effort to sustain family harmony and peace so that a family can live a healthy life under one roof. Yet how healthy can keeping this kind of pace really be??
It is turning out that we are becoming a society that is being driven by our schedules! Not only are we starting to accept this as a way of life, but we are also beginning to pass the message on to our children that this IS, in fact, THE way of life. Oh by the way, did I mention that the above weekly schedule was an example that is typical of a 1st grader? What happens when that same child gets older? What happens if a family has more than one child?
It’s pretty obvious that in an effort to maintain this hectic pace, other time consuming activities need to be sacrificed – like a child’s “play time” and a family’s “family time.” Yet have we really given enough thought to what the consequences are of making these sacrifices?
I have been noticing an interesting pattern. Being a classroom teacher of over 15 years and today as an Education Consultant, I am noticing that one comment that is being brought up more and more by parents, is that they wish that their child would develop stronger relationships with their friends. I agree. Unfortunately, there are times where the parents look to the institution or leader of the institution (e.g., school, teacher, sport’s coach) to facilitate more of an opportunity to develop relationships among children. I understand. I also think that to some extent, this IS done. Almost all adults that I know of, who work with groups of children, are very conscientious not only about being inclusive, but also about nurturing friendships among the group. Yet in most of these situations there is an agenda that is the prime area of focus (e.g., reading, writing, arithmetic, sports game, music lessons) so the social task of developing friendships, albeit just as important, is not viewed by the majority of leaders and parents as the most important task at hand. Most parents want the primary focus of any extra-curricular activity to be that activity. Yet I always find it fascinating, that in talking to parents one-on-one, a consistent and major concern of theirs is that their child does not seem to be making the social connections that the parents wish for them. My concern takes it even to another level. It’s not that the children are making inappropriate social connections, it’s that in some instances, the children are making NO social connections. Children are not developing strong friendships with other children.
What a surprise! I say this because a vital element in being able to develop a friendship is being able to spend quality time with a prospective friend! How can children spend time together developing friendships when most of their scheduled time is spent in developing sport skills, academic skills, language skills and “get ahead” skills? I am not in any way belittling the need to develop some of these extra-curricular skills. What I am saying though, is that we need to recognize how time commitments made to these activities affect other activities—like developing friendships.
In most cases, it is not fair to blame an adult for impeding a child’s ability to develop friendships. Yet even though an adult is not to blame, an adult needs to recognize the responsibility that he or she has in helping and supporting a child in developing, nurturing and sustaining quality friendships.
As parents and as adults and leaders of any organized groups of children, we need to think about ways to integrate our initial goal and focus of an activity with the goal and focus of having children have ample and quality time to cooperate, collaborate, and communicate together to foster friendships.
“The only way to have a friend is to be one.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
As parents, we need to listen to our children, hear who they are mentioning as their friends, and work to help bring them together. Parents also need to communicate with other parents and make more of an effort to schedule unorganized time for children to spend time together. As parents, we not only need to free up our schedules, but we also need to free up the schedules of our children.
We CAN do better about recognizing how time has become such a golden commodity. In fact we MUST do better.
With today’s frenetic pace and with everyone having such busy schedules, it is up to us as adults to find the ways to help our children carryout the gift of being a friend so that they can receive the present of having a friend.