Encouraging Extra-Curricular Activities: How Much is Too Much?

Encouraging Extra-Curricular Activities: How Much is Too Much?

Kids have lots of energy but after a full day at school, some want to join clubs, play sports, write for the school paper, and go to gymnastics. Others want to slow down and take it easy, maybe joining one activity. How much is too much depends on your individual child. It’s important to have this conversation with your child—what are their actual interests and what are their motivations?

In some school districts and geographic areas certain sports, for example, are prized like lacrosse and soccer. Being on the team means being in the popular crowd and having a big audience at the games. This definitely fits some kids; but not all. Parents can help their child and teen sort out what’s actually important to them, not to what others might expect or revere.

It's essential that your child doesn’t feel like an outcast because they don’t favor certain activities that require team work and collaborative tasks. It’s not helpful to push a child into doing things they are not inclined or inspired by. Learn their interests and help them develop them even becoming an expert in something others know little about.

Parents are often swayed into believing that to get into a good college, your kids have to have a broad range of activities that they participated in. Yet, actually the universities look for specialized interests where kids demonstrate a consistent, persevering attitude toward achieving in an outstanding way. One or two remarkable accomplishments far exceeds the bits of involvement in many activities.

The other issue that stands out is that sometimes parents want their kids to enjoy what they enjoy when in fact, they may have very different ideas about what’s fun to do. To really get to know your child it’s only realistic and understanding to encourage what they enjoy which may in the long run broaden your own interests.

Kids need to learn they have an inner world and an outer world. The former dictates the latter. If kids know their parents are truly involved in what goes on in their minds, then they can help the child mold their schedule so their external activities match their internal aims and needs. There are compliant kids who do whatever they’re told, but they’re missing out on learning to develop their own ways of being in the world, exploring and adventuring in their own styles. Building your own identity is crucial to a solid sense of self and confidence.

Kids also tend to drift towards other kids with similar interests and learning styles. This is how they form close buddies they feel understood by and supported by. Parents can encourage their sons and daughters to meet a diverse group of kids until they settle into a niche that feels like their own. When this occurs, the idea of an outcast just doesn’t have to exist. When left to their own devices, kids tend to find others who make them feel comfortable and they learn and discover together. There will always be kids who tend to be more on the loner side by preference not by default. They, too, need to be supported for following their own paths as they grow and learn inside and outside of school.

The key to helping your child grow into themselves is to give them a solid foundation of a strong parent-child relationship where they can easily discuss their intentions, motivations, needs, wants, wishes and feelings. Kids need sounding boards more often than lots of advice. Help them find their own direction and you’ll have a happy child.

Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., is a psychoanalyst and author of the Gold Moms Choice Award winning book, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever books are sold. Visit her website for more guidance: http://lauriehollmanphd.com.

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