Fear of missing out (or FOMO) is a form of social anxiety in which people are worried that they might miss out on an opportunity for social interaction or some other valuable experience. The fear is exacerbated by social media—the more we see what our friends and colleagues are doing, the more we worry we’re not having as much fun as they are!

I see a specialized type of FOMO in parents all the time. I call it “FOM-CMO” – (Fear Of My Child Missing Out).

Okay, I don’t really call it that. But I do see it regularly.

It usually starts off with the best of intentions. We want to make sure our kids get to experience as much as possible in order to see where their passions lie. Sports? Theater? Music? Computer Coding? The choices are endless—even though our finances aren’t.

But something often happens along the way—in our attempts to give our children a diversity of experiences, we can inadvertently over-program them. And the activities we sign them up for tend to be highly structured—with rules and evaluations of what is good versus bad decided in advance by adults. The average elementary school student gets far too little free time.

While I have no problems with structure and evaluations, I don’t like how much time is dedicated to this type of activity. As I’ve mentioned before, in an era of over programming, children need unstructured time for free play. Unstructured play promotes social interactions, emotional intelligence, and executive functioning, including self-control and problem solving skills.

Leaving children to their own devises means they plan, organize, negotiate and make decisions. When children create and play games with others (without our precise rules and expected outcomes) their autonomy blossoms.

When we set out the annual curriculum at Right At School, we always seek a healthy balance of our specific enrichment classes and structured learning as well as leaving time each week for free play. As important as mastery in established structures can be, free play means self-discovery, self-reliance, and self-confidence.

That’s something we should all be sure not to miss out on!

Mark

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