Today it’s different: kids are enrolled in any and all classes they – or you the parent – have an interest in to provide those sweet darlings with skill building activities. Since most are after school, everyone hits the race-track to fit everything in.
Extracurricular activities are great as long as they don’t turn from an enjoyable challenge to stress. So limit activities, even if that means just one activity per season.
Extracurricular activities certainly benefit children. They:
- Build self-esteem;
- Help kids make new friends;
- Teach them how to be team players;
- Improve school performance;
- And importantly, keep kids from becoming inactive TV watchers and video game players, packing on the pounds as the sedentary years march by;
Consider these ideas to create a healthy lineup of activities for your kids, which will also help avoid burnout for all. Since you’re the parent and in charge (you are in charge, right?) make sure their schedule works for you, too.
1. Help your kids prioritize and choose activities that match their interests versus doing anything that looks exciting. Mostly, let them choose their own activities since pressuring them into something YOU’RE interested in may create tension.
Your answers to these questions can help decide which activities to sign up for. Is the activity:
- Meaningful? Would it be beneficial to your child now or later?
- Interesting to your child?
- Within your time and resources?
- Located in an area that fits your schedule?
2. Insist on one family day per week with no outside activities to build family time and to avoid burnout.
3. Start slow with new activities and encourage personal responsibility in choosing what to do. Instead of automatically buying the best equipment for a new endeavor simply because your son’s interested in the activity, require that he commit to a full class or season before upgrading the equipment. Have him demonstrate he’ll stick with it. This also keeps him from irresponsibly jumping in and out of activities willy-nilly.
4. Reduce commute time by choosing classes close by when possible, arranging carpooling where possible and running errands in that part of town when you drive.
5. Keep all kids’ commitments on a family calendar posted where all can see. List who’s doing what, where, when and how they’re getting there.
6. Look for signs of boredom and stress: does he procrastinate on practicing or even attending? Does he worry excessively about it? Find out why. Speak with his instructor to gain additional insight into the worth of the activity for him.
7. Adapt involvements as your children mature to accommodate increased commitments elsewhere.
Kids, like adults, can’t do it all; that’s why prioritizing is important. And never underestimate the importance of kids playing with kids with no supervision. It offers skills supervised activities don’t. And, not every moment of their “free time” needs to be scheduled.
Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at wholeperson.com.