Are we overscheduling our kids?

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Stress is more prevalent than ever in American families, and no one is feeling it more than our children. Those are the conclusions of a recent study by the American Psychological Association.

We sign up our kids for lessons, activities and special programs to provide them every opportunity. But at what cost?

We spent a day with a very programmed family and saw several of those costs first hand. Homework time is about the only breather in this family of eight's schedule.

The Nelsons' daily routine gets them heading out the door for 6:45 a.m. cheerleading practice. At 7:30, the trip to different schools for different kids begins, which includes a range of AP classes, pre-college classes and preschool.

I've tried to decrease my busy load and I oftentimes fill it with other things.

–Amy Nelson

Add in full-time work for mom and dad on different days.

After school, several kids take soccer, one has concert choir, one has dance classes, one has sewing classes. They're even trying to get the baby of the family signed up for swimming lessons.

"I've tried to decrease my busy load and I oftentimes fill it with other things," says mom Amy Nelson, who is also an OB emergency nurse.

Never mind the cost of the lessons -- they pay a high price just to get there. "It's right up there with the amount we spend on groceries," Amy says.

Gassing up three cars once a week adds up to a whopping $720 a month. And all the car time leads to a lot of grab and go.

"My favorite place is the Holiday (gas station)," Amy says.

She stops for drinks and snacks at the Holiday gas station a couple of times a day, at a cost of about $80 a month

A busy schedule doesn't leave much time for cooking.

"McDonald's," Amy says. "I'm embarrassed to say that. The kids love the snack wraps."

Amy estimates she spends about $240 a month on fast food.

But there may be another, higher cost. Amy thrives off the pace, and she says for their family, it works.

"We do these activities to stay involved and active and healthy and to learn things and have opportunities," she says.

Yet, these "opportunities" are felt by each of her girls.

Breann Bergeson is a high school senior. "It's really stressful at times," she says.

Her sister Hannah agrees. "It's really overwhelming," she says.

Daughter Chloe says it's hard to get any alone time with her mom. "It's just frustrating because I need help with my homework and my mom is usually at work or running people somewhere," she says.

A recent survey by the American Psychological Association found stress is a factor in many families and that parents underestimate the impact on children.

While 69 percent of parents believe their stress doesn't impact their kids, only 14 percent of teens said the stress didn't bother them.

In some cases, nearly half of tweens and teens felt sad, depressed and frustrated when their parents were stressed.

"A parent can just look at the schedule and say, ‘Yeah, we really don't have any free time,'" says Matt Woolley, a clinical psychologist at the University of Utah. "That would be a warning sign."

Another warning sign, says Wooley, is when kids lose the joy of these activities or "opportunities." It's a different balancing act in every home.

Check out the image gallery on the right to see what "family stressers" our viewers submitted.



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Nadine Wimmer


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