Experts: Families should do less, enjoy more

LOS ANGELES Today, with the recession and the holidays approaching, many parents are wondering how they're going to make ends meet and get everything done.

"I just feel that there are so many things that I have to handle and I want to do it well so it's been a bit stressful," said mom Christine Won.

"We are overscheduled, overburdened and have really unrealistic expectations about what we can do," said Dr. Mary Jane Rotheram, director of the UCLA Family Commons in Santa Monica.

She says tired parents walk through her doors stressed out with the burdens of daily life.

People are working more and commuting longer. For kids, play time has dropped 25 percent, while homework has doubled.

"When you put the schedules of five people together -- trying to all be perfect and excel in every area of their life -- families are overwhelmed," said Dr. Rotheram.

A typical family weekend may include a soccer game, a birthday party, and a trip to the zoo or the amusement park. If that's what your weekend looks like, Dr. Rotheram says that's too much.

"Part of what we're going to propose is that you do less, that you and your children do less," the doctor said. "Children don't need three afternoon school activities, what is the one thing that they want to do that they care about that would be important for them?"

Dr. Rotheram offers seminars to families to help them find more pleasure in their lives. She tells them to simplify family gatherings and remember meaningful experiences are always more rewarding than material things.

That is what Won is learning.

"I'm trying to prioritize my values and trying to start up a new family ritual that will make all of us less stressed," said Won.

Dr. Rotheram suggests parents band with other parents in their kids classes and have less play dates and fewer elaborate birthday celebrations. Instead of big weekends, she suggests families go to the beach or take a walk around the neighborhood and just be together.

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