"Life is truly a ride. We're all strapped in and no one can stop it.... I think that the most you can hope for at the end of life is that your hair's messed, you're out of breath, and you didn't throw up." - Jerry Seinfeld
Over the last couple of weeks I have discussed the importance of education and then provided some thoughts on how to be more effective as a parent in educating your children. This week I thought chatting about extracurricular activities is worth some time because so many families struggle with balancing academics and extracurricular activities. Few parents today doubt the importance of kids playing sports, learning to play an instrument, studying art or drama; they DO however struggle with tying it all together.
The challenge for parents today is more difficult than ever; with many universities using the “whole person concept” for admissions and scholarship opportunities, there is a tangible payoff to extracurricular activities beyond fun and rounding out a child’s personality. Even High school teams of all kinds are also more selective with more kids trying to be part of organizations with limited resources.
The challenge doesn’t stop there however. With activities starting earlier (some, like swimming can start in infancy) and becoming more competitive for the best teams and traveling competitions, both children and parents have more invested. Speaking of resources, serious time and money can be expended when one considers fees, equipment, uniforms, lessons, and getting to and from practice and the actual activities. The more kids you have in activities, obviously the crazier your life becomes trying to get everyone where they belong.
For these reasons, make sure that the activities your family participates in support the goals you developed a couple of months ago when I wrote about goal setting. Your goal setting sheet will help insure that you continue to lead the activities, not be driven by them.
You also want to make sure the activities are not having a negative effect on your family. Are you still having dinner together several nights a week? Are your kids having trouble doing their homework because of activities? Are the kids getting enough sleep? The American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests at least nine hours of sleep per night for a teenager. Last, is the family still having fun? If you receive a negative answer when you ask these questions, then perhaps you should scale back your kids’ involvement in the number of activities or how seriously they participate. This process may require some hard choices by everyone in the family, but remember, at the end of the day YOU are still the parent.The bottom line is that everyone needs interests that challenge us and recharge our batteries. Far from being frivolous, they help round us out and add zest to life. However, like spices in cooking they can be overdone; so encourage your kids to try new things and grow in ways they never thought possible, but while they are spreading their wings insure they do so with your help and involvement. Not just in getting there, but making decisions that are best for their long term development and futures.