Certainly after-school activities can help your child grow into a well-rounded teen or young adult. Organized activities can help build a child’s skills and self-confidence, help them discover hidden talents and improve their ability to get along with others. But deciding how many after-school activities and which one or ones are right for your child can be challenging. Here are some suggestions to help you find the right balance.
* Remember that all children are different. Even your own children will likely be different from each other. Consider each child’s needs, skills, and interests when choosing activities. The best activity will be one that interests your child.
* Encourage children to explore a variety of activities to find what they enjoy. Trial classes are often available and usually free. Outside of school, your community center, YMCA, religious organizations and Boys and Girls Clubs offer a variety of activities.
* Be careful about imposing your own wishes on your child. Just because you were the swim team star does not mean your child will enjoy it.
* Be open-minded. Your child may choose activities that are unfamiliar to you. Remember, it wasn’t too long ago that soccer was practically unheard of in the U.S. for young kids.
* Consider the end goal. Are your children just learning or do they want to be on a competitive team?
* Consider any travel involved. Are you going to need to pick your child up from school and drive 30 minutes to an activity? Can you and your child reasonably add this time to your schedule?
Warning Signs for Too Many Activities
Some children and teens become over scheduled between school, homework, activities, friends and home chores. Make sure your children have enough time to do homework and get enough sleep, which is paramount for healthy development. Even then, it is easy to unwittingly over schedule your child. Early warning signs that a child may be over scheduled include:
* Making excuses or refusing to go to the activity.
* Feeling over-tired or not having enough time to sleep.
* Having problems with organization or meeting deadlines.
* Declining school grades.
* Unexplained physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches.
* Increased anxiety.
Warning Signs for Too Few Activities
Children and teens can be under-scheduled. Some children are good at managing their free time and are self-directed. And while it is important for every child to learn how to be happy and manage their time alone, children who spend too much time by themselves may be depressed or anxious. For others, having too much free time can cause problems such as:
* Excess screen or phone time.
* Lack of physical activity or obesity.
If the Child Doesn’t Like the Activity
Even if you are sure your child is not over- or under-scheduled, your child may still end up not liking the chosen activity. If sticking it out is not an option, try to figure out why the child does not like the activity. Is the coach going too fast? Is there a bully on the team? Is the child not getting to participate as much as he or she had hoped? Are they afraid of being in a competition or a recital? It’s worth spending a little time to get to the bottom of the issue. Your child might not realize that you can speak to the teacher and possibly resolve the conflict.
Most kids like to be active and busy. Activities should keep your child engaged in a positive way, while building new life skills. Finding the right balance between organized activity and free time can help promote social and emotional growth and development.