Managing Extracurriculars

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It can be a tough call to know how involved your child should be in extracurricular activities—and to know how hard you should push your child to tough out a rough season or continue with lessons they aren't enthusiastic about.

Finding a balance that teaches your child the importance of teamwork and commitment, and exposes them to a range of activities but doesn't leave them feeling overwhelmed, can be a struggle.

Terry Lanigan, LMSW, ACSW, CFT, notes that organized play is important at all ages. While smaller children benefit from play dates, sports, and organized play by learning to share, acquiring physical coordination, and understanding that practice leads to improvement, pre-teens, and teens also benefit from structured activities, especially if they provide the physical activity many teens lack in their daily routines.

How should a parent go about getting his or her child involved? "Focus on and support their curiosity," Lanigan said. "Ask, don't tell." Encouraging a child's curiosity and providing him with opportunities to pursue natural interests may allow him to find more intrinsic value in activities. If a child, particularly an older one, doesn't seem to feel an interest in anything, parents may need to expand the framework of what it means to be involved. Volunteering, learning a skill, or being part of a social group or community, as opposed to limiting the scope to school activities, might provide more opportunities for true interest. "Ask the child, 'What's something that's relaxing to you, or interesting to you?' and work from there," Lanigan said. "Emphasize that life balance is important." And set a good example. "Parent rolemodeling is what sets the foundation. What are you conveying? If parents show curiosity, that becomes the norm in the family."

For more tips on helping your child navigate the busy world of extracurricular activities, click here to read this article in its entirety in the digital edition of West Michigan Woman Magazine.


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