Overscheduled Teens

Teen girl lying on her back in grass, relaxed and smiling with her eyes closed

Sports, theater, band, school projects, college prep, church activities — the lives of today's teenagers are fast-paced and jam-packed. They have countless opportunities to set lofty goals and run hard after aspirations — not to mention their various social obligations.

As parents, we're proud of their accomplishments and hopeful about their futures. Yet we worry they are living at a pace that keeps them from experiencing the joy and freedom we desire for them. We want them to embrace responsibility and taste success but also not lose the battle for balance. Though they may feel invincible, we know the toll that busyness can take. So how do we help them find a rhythm that includes rest and leaves room for margin?

Rest isn't something we can force on our teens, but we can help them recognize the need for it by pointing out symptoms such as headaches, exhaustion, anxiety, emotional outbursts or spiritual apathy. After all, the effects of an overscheduled life can wreak havoc on teens' health and contentment, but they have to make the connection between these outcomes and the absence of downtime.

Let's consider ways to foster an environment where our kids can recharge physically, mentally and, most importantly, spiritually.

Empower them to say no

Teens who are always on the run are often overscheduled. Just because they have options doesn't mean they have to act on every activity or invitation. Giving them permission to say no to some things will enable them to say yes to experiences that truly matter. They may need your help to find the balance between activities that challenge them physically, mentally and spiritually and those that rejuvenate them — ones they genuinely enjoy and look forward to. And they need to understand how maintaining margin in their schedule leaves room for unexpected opportunities.

Make sleep a priority

God created rest as part of the rhythm human beings need to thrive. Though there's more to this concept than a mere good night's sleep, a teen's mind and body do need enough sleep to function at full capacity. Experts estimate that teens need between nine and 10 hours of sleep every night to be at their best. This ideal might not be a reality every evening in your house, but you can set boundaries that encourage this part of a healthy routine. Physical rest impacts every other aspect of life, including your teen's spiritual health. When teens are well-rested, they will think more clearly and feel more engaged throughout the day.

Designate technology-free zones

This generation has instant access to an infinite amount of information, an endless stream of entertainment and a sea of virtual friends and followers. The more connected they are to technology, the easier it becomes to disconnect relationally and spiritually. It shouldn't come as a surprise that studies link excessive time on electronic devices and social media to increased loneliness, depression, anxiety, envy and low self-esteem. Our souls are wired to connect with God and others. Designating specific times and places where phones and tablets are set aside will create space for conversation, reflection, creativity and true connection.

Model what it means to rest in God

It's easy to recognize the need for our teens to experience rest physically and mentally, but there is a kind of rest that is infinitely more significant. To become all they were created to be, our kids must learn to rest spiritually. This rest requires trust and flows from an intimate, growing relationship with Christ. Of all the things we teach our children, modeling what it means to rest in God, to place our hope in His faithfulness, is the greatest lesson we will ever impart.

We can't always control the whirlwind of activities swirling around our teens, but we can help them loosen the hold busyness has on them. We can remind them of the importance of rest, while fervently praying for them to give attention to moments that matter — to realize that time with Jesus is like a deep breath for the soul. Only in His presence will our teens truly find rest.

Vicki Courtney is a speaker and author of Rest Assured: A recovery plan for weary souls. Ali Claxton is a freelance writer and editor who has served in student ministry for more than a decade.
This article first appeared in the June/July 2016 issue of Focus on the Family magazine and was originally titled "Timeout for Teens." If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family's marriage and parenting magazine. Get this publication delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.
Copyright © 2016 by Vicki Courtney and Ali Claxton. Used by permission.

Next in this Series: Overscheduled Kids

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