How Much and Which Extra-Curricular Activities?

by Nancy Monson

With the start of school come all the after school activities. How do you decide what your child participates in? The first rule, is that every child is different, and their needs and ability to engage in extra curricular activites can vary from year to year, even from season to season. Here are some pointers that could be helpful in assessing what might be enough but not too much after school activity.

Every child needs assimilation time, quiet time, where nothing new is happening. The ability to have self-knowledge, depth and wisdom requires internal spaciousness. Make sure your child has this kind of time somewhere in their schedule. Listen to your child; do they want more time at home? More time with you? Do they seem stressed out, tired, edgy, sped up, unable to stay focused? Maybe they are doing too much, and just need some free time to do what they choose. This important element can make the difference in whether your child is fully able to gain from the activities they are involved in. The point of doing extra activities is that your child should be gaining or strengthening skills, building self-esteem, and having fun. Be wary of overdoing it. Transition time between activities is also necessary so that they aren't rushed from one activity to the next. They will be more able to start each thing ready and refreshed.

Look at the whole of your child. Are all areas of development getting attention? We want our children to have confidence in their bodies, so some kind of physical fitness is essential to complete health. Does the school your child goes to fully engage your child's particular needs, strengths and weaknesses in this area? Is there a sport your child would like to participate in? If children don't gain this confidence when they are young, it is difficult to get later. A healthy, solid, relaxed body is a lifetime gift.

How is your child's creativity nourished in their school? If there is a lack, or your child has a particular love of one of the arts, then there is room for some extra attention.

Does your child need extra academic help? If you can't afford a tutor, find out through the school what else might be available. Call your local colleges and universities and see if there are students in the education department who might be willing to help out.

Take the time to research different programs. For every activity there are many approaches of teaching. Call the programs, talk to the teachers, and ask questions. What is it you want your child to learn? What approach is your child comfortable with? If you can, sit in on a class. If you enter your child in a dance class, and they want to quit, is it because that class just isn't the right fit or your child doesn't want to dance? Children don't know that there are such huge differences in teachers, and it is up to the parents to try to find the right teacher for their child. A child who truly loves the classes they are in is worth the extra time.

© Nancy Monson, 2005. All rights reserved.

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