Summer is over and the children are back in school and parents are scrambling to find extracurricular activities for the upcoming year. As parents, we want the best future possible for our children and we try to do all the “right” things to ensure their success.
Today’s children are often enrolled in extracurricular activities and we may find ourselves wondering how necessary these activities really are. Rest assured that your child’s involvement in after-school programs and extracurricular activities is time well spent.
Young people are more likely to grow up healthy when they have opportunities to learn new skills and interests. Studies show that children who are involved in supervised activities are much less likely to use drugs and alcohol. Therefore, these types of activities can be considered one of many protective factors, or preventative measures, that buffer children from future drug use.
Involvement in supervised activities not only occupies free time that would possibly allow for dangerous behaviors, but also helps young people in so many other ways. Participation in these types of activities provides opportunities for identifying talents and for developing self-esteem and self-confidence.
Balanced growth in mind, body and spirit is also a result of involvement in constructive activities. Such involvement empowers children, cultivates positive values and helps build a child’s identity and sense of purpose. Opportunities for establishing friendships and building ongoing connections to caring, responsible adults are in abundance. There are several things to keep in mind when helping your child to select an activity. Participation in sports, school activities and the arts has countless benefits.
Be sure to keep in mind, though, that positive activities do not always need to be formal nor do they have to be expensive. Be creative. A “ritual” of kids in the neighborhood shooting hops with some caring adults or a neighbor who teaches kids how to make different recipes each week are great ideas.
Match opportunities with your child’s interests. Involvement in church and faith-based organizations is a great way for youth to spend time in a safe, stimulating environment with positive role models. Taking part in 4-H also provides countless benefits.
So, what can you do to make sure that your child has a good experience participating in extracurricular activities?
First, you can start by attending practices, games, and performances whenever possible. Be sure to model appropriate parental participation skills. Praise your child’s effort and dedication. It’s best to focus on enjoyment of the activity rather than mastery. If a child has a strong interest in the activity the mastery in that particular skill will come.
Secondly, monitor your child’s enthusiasm about activities and be willing to make changes if your child loses interest or finds something else that captures his attention.
Last but not least be aware of your child’s schedule. If your child is not having enough time to comfortably complete homework assignments this may be an indicator that your child has too many activities. There is a definite balance between having enough to do and too much to do. By helping your child find a “happy medium,” he or she can reap the benefits of both structured activity and a well-rounded life that includes time to enjoy and relax with family.
For more information contact Kim Reid, Extension Agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at 910-592-7161.