Balancing School With Extracurricular Activities
"Go outside and play!" That was the edict most parents used to issue to children just a few decades ago. But today's world isn't quite as safe, and so activities and play have become more formalized. Going to college is more common today, too, which means added pressure to do well in school as well as in activities outside of school. The challenge: Helping your kids maintain a healthy balance between school and the myriad of extracurricular activities they have on their plates.
There some parental pressure for kids to succeed. "You must make sure you don't put undue pressure on kids when it comes to extracurricular activities, "The kids will be stressed. When our plates are too full, we might be short-tempered; we feel rushed. I've seen some kids who are tremendous over-achievers. Some kids can handle it and others can't."
Finding the Right Balance: School and Extracurricular Activities
Here are some tips to help your children maintain a good balance between academics and activities:
Check in on time management. Get together regularly with your children to make sure their involvement in extracurricular activities isn't negatively impacting their academics. Discuss scheduling and time management to be sure they are not overwhelmed.
Divide your attention equally. Be sure that you spend as much time with your child going over schoolwork as you do in helping to prepare for a school play or practice for a ball game.
Don't push in the wrong direction. Encourage your children to get involved in at least one club or activity of their choosing. If you push them into an extracurricular activity they don't like, they may wind up resenting the activity and possibly you.
Promote real-world activities. Getting involved in a language club or the school newspaper makes learning a child's favorite subject, such as English or Spanish, even more enjoyable.
Encourage role models. Kids need the friendship and inspiration found in the relationships with teachers, counselors, and coaches that develop during extracurricular activities.
Foster friendships. Allow children to be involved with friends as part of these clubs to build lasting relationships.
Teach them about teamwork and competition. Encourage an interest in sports or other activities that require tryouts and competition. Kids will learn the value of good teamwork and competition.
Talk about good sportsmanship and build strong self-esteem. Being involved in extracurricular activities can sometimes mean losing or winning an event or competition. Help prepare your child for those ups and downs.
Be honest about what extracurricular activities cost. Make sure your child understands that extracurricular activities can often add extra costs to the family budget (for uniforms, instruments, and club fees) so that they value your financial commitment.
See switching gears as normal. Don't be too upset if your child wants to change activities. It's important to try new things and switching activities is normal.
A Well-Rounded Education
The U.S. Department of Education points out that just about every school offers some extracurricular activities, from music to sports to academic clubs. Involvement can reinforce academics and help kids to learn social skills. Also, research has shown that involvement in extracurricular activities can improve a child's sense of belonging to the school and reduce his chance of failing or even dropping out.
But remember that kids are exploring what works and what doesn't, so give them some room to change. "If your child is trying to pull away from an activity, recognize that he may have too much on his plate," Shannon says. "He doesn't have to start playing football at age 7. … Don't push kids into activities that they don't want to do."