Drama club. Swimming. Science club. Choir practice. The vast array of extracurricular activities offered today is astounding, and each demands serious commitment, meaning that children tend to spend most weekday afternoons ricocheting from one activity to another.
As parents, we want what is best for our children, so we sign them up for these activities thinking it will benefit them. And why not? Extracurricular activities offer a number of advantages – they help kids develop talents and passions, they encourage social interaction, they build self-esteem and self-discipline, they teach sportsmanship and conflict resolution, and most of all, they’re fun!
But finding activities that are appropriate for your child and determining how many to sign up for can be difficult. Here are a few tips to help you find the right balance:
- Consider your child’s needs, skills and interests when choosing activities.
- Be careful not to impose your own wishes on your child. Just because you did ballet or played soccer does not mean it is right for your child.
- Be open-minded and listen to what your child is asking for – allow him to choose something he wants to do.
While your intentions may be good, pushing your child to get involved in certain extracurricular activities or encouraging him to take on too much could have negative consequences. The general rule is that afterschool activities should be scaled down when it starts interfering with his daily life – when he doesn’t have time for family and friends, when he doesn’t get around to doing his homework, or when he has to forego some sleep to make time for everything else, it is time to reconsider his schedule.
Early warning signs that your child may be overscheduled include:
- He is making excuses or refusing to go to an activity.
- He is over-tired or anxious most of the time.
- He is not performing as he should academically.
- He starts developing physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches.
- He is struggling to focus and is not able to master new skills or abilities covered during activities.
Before scheduling a different activity for every day of the week, it is important to remember that not every part of your child’s day has to be structured. Children can benefit immensely from self-directed activities, and they need time and space to think for themselves, be creative, and use their own internal resources.