NZ Woman's Weekly

Tips for managing your kids’ extra-curricular activities

School’s just about back and with it comes all the other activities kids are involved in. Extra-curricular activities can be great, but your child may be doing too much – or not enough.

Julie Cooper was stunned when her 12-year-old daughter recently told her she felt she’s had a deprived childhood because she’s never been able to do any extra-curricular activities. Other than playing netball for her school, Emma hasn’t gone to lessons after school because Julie and her husband both work full time and are unable to take their daughter or her younger brother to other activities.

“She’s done art classes and netball, but it’s always been impossible for us to ferry our kids around because of our work,” says Julie, an office administrator who also helps to run a family business.

“Recently Emma told me she would have loved to have gone to drama classes or learned to play the guitar. I feel bad that she didn’t have the chance. It seems like she’s the only one of her friends who doesn’t spend all their time going from one activity to the next.”

Rose Harris’ children are among those kids whose lives are dominated by their extra-curricular activities. She has three children who, between them, take piano, ballet, tap, drama, gymnastics and karate classes. They also play netball, soccer, cricket and hockey and all have swimming lessons. Her son also goes to Scouts.

“I spend my life driving them to various activities,” says Rose, who works part time in retail. “There is something happening every day after school and Saturdays are chaotic. But they are really keen to do everything they do and I think it is important for them to have these different interests.”

However, after-school activities can also have their downsides, especially if they start to take over your children’s lives. Your kids can become exhausted from trying to do too much and their school work may suffer. All those weekly classes can also leave your child feeling pressured to achieve.

They can also find themselves having to stick with an activity they’ve lost interest in. If they have invested a lot of time and effort over the years they may feel they can’t just quit.

Activities can also take a toll on parents. They can be very costly, especially if you have several children doing many different activities. Not only do you have to fork out for fees but equipment, travel expenses, exam fees and competition or performance tickets can also add up. You may also become a glorified taxi driver and have to make costumes, wash kits, help out at concerts and travel to tournaments or competitions.

The beginning of the school year is a good time to audit extra-curricular activities. Sit down with each child and talk about what they do and whether they wish to continue – preferably before you commit to paying fees or buying new equipment. If they really do want to give up on something they’ve been doing for years, get them to go away and really think about it.

If they still want to finish, let them. If they’ve been doing a wide range of activities perhaps the time has come to narrow their focus down to one or two. If they want to try something new they may have to give up something in return.

Remember, it’s important your children do these activities because they want to, not because you think they should – or because you did them yourself. Similarly, you should never pressure your child into doing something because you always wanted to try it and never did.

Activities outside of school hours can be a way to make new friends

There are lots of benefits children can gain from doing extra-curricular activities. These include:

  • Getting exercise and improving their physical development
  • Learning new skills
  • Learning to be disciplined
  • Encouraging them to be creative
  • Providing stress relief
  • Developing team spirit
  • Having fun
  • Gaining a sense of accomplishment
  • Becoming sociable and making friends
  • Stopping them from becoming bored
  • Reducing the chances of them getting into trouble because they have lots of time on their hands
  • Working on abilities that could one day lead to a career in music, dance or sport
Issue 1541

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