Extracurricular activities can, without a doubt, play an important role in your child’s life both during and after school. Being involved in the right activities brings a level of structure and can help to showcase talents that may otherwise stay hidden. Extracurricular activity also adds flair and depth to job and college application forms. But, how do we keep the all-important balance between academics and extramurals? And what happens when we add family and social life to the mix? Given the time demands and extra commitment, coordinating your child’s extracurricular activities is a must! Here are a few tips on how you can do that:
Proper planning and scheduling is imperative should your child sign up to after school activities. This should come fairly easy, given the technological advantage we have today. Coordinating calendars, scheduling apps and setting reminders on devices will go a long way towards making sure you and your child are on the same schedule. Sometimes a visual is needed though. Chart calendars, displayed on a central wall at home, can help to coordinate. When planning your child’s school week, don’t forget to block out homework and study time too! In fact, penciling in a ‘break time’ in between daily activities should also be remembered. Rest and family time is important. Help your child to keep the fine balance between school work and extramural by using their time as constructively as possible.
Learning Skills Counselor of York University, Brian Poser, suggests that excellent time management skills can assist your child to excel in their extramural activities. It can also improve their grades and help to keep stress levels in check. He says that a successful time management cycle comprises of goal setting, time tracking, planning, taking action and time adjusting. Set important goals, with your child, at the beginning of the school year. Make sure that they are realistic, relevant to your child’s education and interests and agreed upon by both of you. This can also help you to keep balance between after school activity and academics. If time is already an issue for you, Poser suggests figuring out what the time wasters are by writing down a list of activity that your child had done throughout the day. It will highlight habits and happenings that are unproductive and can be dropped.
Gone are the days of informal play. Children are more and more being introduced to scheduled play and formalized activity. Structured activity has its perks, provided it does not put undue pressure on the child. According to Columbia University Psychology Professor, Dr Suniya Luthar, it is good for children to be scheduled and organized. She explains that the pressure of extracurricular becomes real when the parent creates an expectation around the child’s performance. Helping your child discover and develop their passion can be overwhelming and exciting and it can be easy to get carried away with rehearsing, recitals and events. They key to coordinating extracurricular activity is to create a list of priorities and to stick to them!
As a family, decide what takes priority over extra-murals or hobbies. For some this may be school work, going to church, or having supper at a certain time each evening. Make sure that all members of the family understand that these priorities are non-negotiable and be sure to work your child’s extracurricular schedules around it. This sets a precedent and also helps your child to understand the importance of balance and the value of honoring your commitments. Make sure that you divide your attention equally between school work, rehearsals and family time.
Some children thrive on constant activity, while others may need more down time. According to a group of professors from Stanford and Villanova, who has been collecting data on this topic since 2007, your child’s weekly extracurricular limit is about twenty hours. A study done at Stanford University confirmed that children are perfectly happy doing up to four hours of extramural on a regular school day. Any more than that can result in emotional and stress related trauma and even an upset in sleep patterns. Even if your child has the natural skill and aptitude to do well in just about every after school activity, try to limit their involvement to only two or three commitments.
As much as we would like to push our children to do as much as they can, over-stimulation can be a hindrance. Setting healthy limits, by allowing your child to only partake in a few activities, could actually be a good thing! Furthermore, some extramural activities are not seasonal and might not have an end date or resting period. You may need to specify when activity should start and end, for your child, if you are not comfortable with them being busy for the whole school year. Remember that most extracurricular activities come with rehearsals, meetings and tournaments, which could be a lot for your younger child to commit to. Sometimes saying “no” could be the best way to handle the threat of overburden.
Get ready, stay ready
When coordinating your child’s extracurricular affairs there are a few practical things you could do to make your daily timeline run smoother. For starters, get your child into the habit of getting their activity bags packed each evening. This event could take place after homework and a checklist can help you to stay on top of gear that needs replacing or cleaning and any garments of clothing or equipment that has gone missing. Meal planning is also a great time saver. Pre-pack your after school activity lunches and snacks on a weekly basis for an easy “grab and go” system. Carpooling has become the saving grace of many office bound parents who may not be able to make the school drop off/pick up at the same time each day. Find a carpool team and create a practical way for the group to stay in touch with each other, throughout the day, for peace of mind.
But most importantly, make sure that your children enjoy every minute of their school career. Participating in extramural activities should be fun and sociable. With proper planning and implementation, you are able to help them make the most of it.