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18 March 2011
 
Canada: Family Tax Breaks Introduced To Subsidize The Overscheduled Child
 
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced last night that this years Federal Budget will introduce tax breaks for families who pay for extra curriculum activities for their children; an art classes, dance, and a little more music.
 
This it seems is the decade of the overscheduled child, where parents feel the obligation to fill every day with activities, this is about opportunity, eduction, it’s about extending our children’s minds.
 
Yet increasingly psychologists are raising concerns that children are loosing out, they are loosing the opportunity to be bored, to relax and to define their own entertainment, basically to play.
 
In 2007 the Canadian government began it’s family tax program introducing reforms to allow parents to claim tax credits for enrolling their children in sporting clubs for up to $75.00 per child.
 
Now the budget will allow for parents to include tax credits for artistic pursuits, adding just a little incentive to slip in one more class, maybe after dinner. 
 
In his ground breaking book The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap, Dr Alvin Rosenfeld,  believes that millions of American children are ‘hyper-parented’.  
 
The trend has been boosted by the media pushing the concept of “baby Einstein’. 
 
What’s leading the trend is that many of us, as older parents have achieved so much in our busy busy busy worlds, work, play, exercise, we push our lives to the limit.
 
We are well skilled in management, goal setting and strategic planning.  Now these achievements can be transferred into our the way we raise our children.  
 
Monday, football, Tuesday, violin, Wednesday, swimming, and the list goes on.  Every day after school we drive our kids from course to course.  
 
We all want our children to succeed, to be successful to push as much into their short lives as humanly possible, and this begins from a short time into a child’s life. 
 
In one case cited in the Psychology Today, David Elkins was seeing a young boy, 9 years old, who was on the brink of clinical depression.  His weekly schedule was overwhelming, 3 different sports, being involved in a church youth group and two piano lessons each week. 
 
Behind closed doors the boy confided all he wanted to do was have water fights, ride bikes and hang out with the kids from the neighborhoods.
 
His mother firmly believed the child loves his activities.
 
The risks to children are high, according to Dr Rosenfeld.  Depressions, feeling of inadequacy, leading potentially a young person using drugs and even causing sexual problems.
 
Who can doubt how cute it is to watch our toddlers, dresses in a bright pink classical dance costume clumsily prancing around the smiling, laughing feeling so proud of themselves.  
 
Who can doubt how much pride a parent feels when their child wins the local cross country race.
 
Who of us doesn’t want our children to be the best in school, the best in art, the best in sport.   Yet the reality is this is just not possible, and our drive to have highly skilled children may come at a very high cost.
 
It’s hard to be critical of a government that provides incentives for parents to enroll their children in extra-curriculum activities, but really, do we need any further incentive? 

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References:

http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Canada/20110317/artistic-tax-credit-110317/

http://www.hyper-parenting.com/paper.htm

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200301/the-overbooked-child

 
 
 

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