If your day planner has a blinking NO VACANCY sign hanging on it, chances are good that everyone else in the home is running on turbo, too. What does your schedule look like? Overloaded? Does it reflect your higher priorities? What type of lifestyle are you modeling? How often are you at home?

You need to examine every activity that takes you away from your spouse and children and determine if it is worth the cost. This applies even to ministry activities; we need to be involved in our church and be reaching out to others in our community, but not at the continual expense of our families.

Our observation is that the root of busyness is often found in the values parents adopt from others or from the culture. In addition to ensuring a good education, we often want our children to gain other skills. So we get them involved in one or more lessons: piano, guitar, voice, art, gymnastics, or drama, to name a few. Then we let them join competitive athletic teams: soccer, baseball, basketball, football, tennis, and swimming. And don’t forget the clubs like Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts or Awana. What are our motives? Why do we want our children involved in outside activities like sports, cheerleading, or music? Are we simply responding to our child’s wishes or trying to match what other parents are doing in our community?

One temptation any parent faces is allowing a child’s activities to feed his own self-esteem. We feel an unmistakable pride when a child hits a home run in baseball or performs well in a piano recital. But are we using this experience to relive our own youth? Are we enjoying our child’s accomplishments as a substitute for what we may have missed as an adolescent?

How many times have you heard the sad story of a child who years later admits that he participated in a sport only to please a parent, but now hates the sport and doesn’t want much to do with the parent, either? Some parents don’t face their own feelings and are not willing to sacrifice an activity that they love, but that might not be best for the child.

In our family we continue to work on refining the following convictions, which we recommend to any harried parent.

1. Sabbath rest and refreshment need to be a priority in our family’s schedule.

Christians need to recover God’s solution for schedule stress. He thought so much of the idea that He modeled it for us during creation by taking a well-deserved seventh day off. Then He put it in our operating manual (the fourth commandment) and elaborated more on it than on any of the other commandments:

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11).

Is Sunday any different around your home from any other day of the week? If not, you are missing out on a great personal and family benefit.

2. Career advancement, personal interests, church involvement, and other activities must not have priority over our personal relationship with God and our commitment to our family

It’s too easy for parents to let the family become consumed by busyness. Activities and accomplishment become the basis for significance. We become activity-driven rather than values-driven.

To keep life properly focused, you should schedule times that ensure attention to priorities. For example, make sure that the entire family eats breakfast together each day, or schedule a special family night each week. Make it non-negotiable.

Don’t set unreasonable goals. Once your children become teenagers, you will find that it’s impossible to eat together every night. But rather than giving up as some parents do, look at your schedule and figure out a way to share a meal at least two or three days a week.

3. Busyness, by its very nature, will cause us to lose focus on the important things in life

This is the dark side of busyness: We get caught up in the activity or event of the moment and lose perspective on what is really significant in life—relationships, time with the Lord, rest, service to others. The momentary and the temporary grow in importance in our lives because busyness drives us. Consequently, family values take a backseat. What really matters is lost because we just have no time.

Although growing and experiencing life through a variety of activities can be a positive thing, we must guard against allowing these experiences to become counterproductive in preparing a child to walk with Christ, relate to others, and contribute to the Kingdom of God.

For the Single Parent

As difficult as it may be at times to arrange, be sure that you have some time in your schedule to rest. This will not only be good for you but will model for your child the healthy perspective of balancing your life.

Additionally, if you do not take a regular planning retreat (at least once every six months), we encourage you to schedule some time just to get away and regain perspective about life, your children, and your calendar. Work out a babysitting arrangement with another single parent, if necessary, so that you can get this time alone to refresh and renew your spiritual and emotional batteries.

Adapted from Parenting Today’s Adolescent: Helping Your Child Avoid the Traps of the Preteen and Teen Years. Copyright 1998 by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers.