Prioritizing Your Teenager’s Time for Play at School

Prioritizing Your Teenager’s Time for Play at School

by Kara Ferreira

High school can be a very busy time in your young student’s life as they prepare for college. A recent article in Psychology Today, points out that parents can provide important guidance on avoiding overscheduling and prioritizing time for play and other beneficial activities.

Gifted students are often the most susceptible to overscheduling with intensive and AP classes. They may feel that they need to continue to perform at a high level academically, and often put pressure on themselves. Peers and parents can also contribute to the perceived need to excel and take the highest level courses available.

In her article, Dr. Suzanne Bender points out that the burnout and toll on mental health can be far more damaging to young adults looking to excel in college than a slightly less intense course load would be. Parents can play an important role in suggesting schedule changes at the start of the year to safeguard their driven student taking on too much.

Burnout, as well as elevated levels of depression and anxiety can be long-lasting effects of overscheduled students who are too focused on attaining good grades and college acceptances. Another article in Time Magazine by researcher Hilary G. Conklin, Ph.D., points out the correlation between increased depression and anxiety and decreased time to play for middle school and high school students.

She notes that giving students the opportunity to learn through play:

  • Increases creativity

  • Improves problem solving skills

  • Fosters independence and perseverance

  • Allows students direct their own learning

  • Results in more positive school experiences

Play, in or outside the classroom, is also critical for the development of the adolescent brain. Play provides an opportunity for exploration and risk-taking, and as it is usually a group activity, also has important implications for cultural learning.

If the upside of play is not convincing enough, another article in the international peer-reviewed journal “Children”, also asserts that an insufficient amount of playful activities can lead children and adolescents to seek out unhealthy stimulation from games involving drugs or alcohol.

Before the school year starts, take some time to sit down with your student and review their class schedule, making sure that play and downtime are also prioritized alongside academic achievement. As the author of the referenced Psychology Today article points out, it’s easier to set a good schedule before the school year starts than it is to make a change midyear.

If you’d like more support for yourself or your student, consider working with a therapist. Contact us at (734) 323-4897 or for more information. Galvin Growth Group offers a wide range of therapists in Novi, Michigan and via teletherapy anywhere in the state.

Kara Ferreira is a G3 Contributing Writer.


Psychology Today, Why High School Students are Struggling with Burnout
Time Magazine, Playtime Isn’t Just for Preschoolers — Teenagers Need It Too
Children (NCBI), Teenagers and Playing