Source: Search Institute

Sometimes kids get bored. Other times, they’re so busy we rarely see them. The paces of our children’s lives seem to vary according to the activities and programs they’re in at the moment.

These fluctuations are normal—even healthy. As long as our kids aren’t stuck in having too much to do or not enough to do, they’re on track.

It never hurts, however, to periodically take an “activity” inventory. Ask your child questions such as these:

  • Overall, are you happy with how many different things you do with your time? Why or why not?
  • Are the activities you’re in stimulating and challenging?
  • Are you making friends with caring, thoughtful adults in your activities?
  • Are you learning new skills, talents, or knowledge?
  • Do your activities teach you more about yourself?
  • Are you excited most days to do these activities?
  • Do these activities bring out the best in you?

The more times your child answers yes, the better. If your child seems to have too few constructive, challenging things to do, consider helping her or him find other constructive activities using the criteria in the questions above.

Search Institute researchers identified four assets in the area of constructive use of time that are crucial for helping young people grow up healthy. Check your child’s areas of strength:

  • Creative activities—Your child spends three or more hours per week in lessons or practice in music, theater, or other arts.
  • Youth programs—Your child spends three or more hours per week in sports, clubs, or organizations at school and/or in community organizations.
  • Religious community—Your child spends one or more hours per week in activities in a religious institution.
  • Time at home—Your child is out with friends “with nothing special to do” two or fewer nights per week.

Progress Report

Examine your expectations of your child in each of the following areas. For each expectation, determine if your child seems stressed, seems bored, or seems overwhelmed.


  • Social Skills:
  • Academics:
  • Physical Health:
  • Hobbies:
  • Extracurricular Activities:

What about you?
Our expectations of our children often come from the expectations we as parents received when we were children. What did your parents expect of you as a child? As a teenager? How realistic were those expectations? How are those expectations affecting your parenting?

Talk together
Questions to discuss with your child:

  • What do you think we except of you- at home, at school, in the community? Are those expectations realistic? Why or why not?
  • Where do you feel bored? Where do you feel defeated? Why?
  • How can we set high expectations together that are realistic, yet challenging?

Reprinted with permission from Ideas for Parents, Newsletter #21, copyright 1997 by Search Institute, Minneapolis, MN, 1-800-888-7828. All rights reserved.