The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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May 19, 2000 Issue
Counselor's Corner

'Help, my teen seems over involved'

Parents have a responsibility to help their children set priorities and limits

By Jane Pratt

QUESTION: My teenage child seems to have a great deal of interest in doing a number of activities and with social involvement. She does well with these situations but she seems to be too busy. I try to talk with her to no avail. What can I do to help, especially with summer approaching?

ANSWER: Setting limits, time management and social involvement can be difficult to balance. There are many opportunities to explore. We want our child to experience opportunities, but they do need to make choices, because we also want them to have free time and to relax and enjoy their childhood.

It sounds positive that you have recognized this behavior in your child and have addressed it with her. It also sounds like your child is independent and enjoys taking on these tasks and responsibilities. It appears there has been positive reinforcement for your child in this and that your child has followed through with the ensuing responsibilities.

However, it is our responsibility as parents to nurture and guide. Since it appears to be a concern, it may help to sit down with your child and talk with her again about your concerns and that together you would like to guide her in the process of making decisions and choices about her involvement. That can be done firmly, yet kindly.

State the ground rules about the decision-making process ahead of time. That should help defuse arguments and encourage a positive outcome. It may be useful to construct a list of activities along with her calendar schedule. You may consider what activities your child enjoys and have her rate them on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being most favorable. This might be a step in the direction of your child choosing and/or eliminating those activities she enjoys most and least.

The next step could be a process of determining what is a realistic or not realistic level of involvement in activities. You did not say whether you take your child to these activities and if your schedule needs to be taken into consideration. Also, please be aware of your own feelings on whether an activity can be eliminated; for example, just because your child does not like piano lessons does not necessarily mean it is off the list.

If your child has difficulty knowing what is too much at this point, as a parent you can help guide her in the decision-making process. You might also ask your child to use the calendar of activities as a tool for guidance in future situations. If our children struggle, sometimes we as parents have to say "no." Independence is a positive quality but being exhausted and overwhelmed does not feel good. You might also talk with your child about consulting with you or her Dad before accepting a commitment or involvement.

You might also look at your own family activities to see if your child is modeling her behavior after other family members.

It should be said that your child may object to this procedure, but in retrospect she may appreciate guidance in setting limits and in time management so that the activities she does participate in may be enjoyed. The idea, of course, is to not stifle independence but to help guide your child to a healthy balance of activities now, with the idea of establishing a healthy pattern for the future.

(Jane Pratt is a Clinical Social Worker with Catholic Social Services, Menasha.)

Send questions to Counselor's Corner, c/o Catholic Social Services, P.O. Box 23825, Green Bay 54305-3825. All questions will be answered in print or through the mail. Identities will remain confidential.

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