Taming the Extracurricular Activity Monster

Extracurricular activities do have tremendous benefits as well. Studies show that more children than ever are involved in enrichment activities away from home and school.
by Lisa M. Hendey | Source: Catholic.net
In many families, Back to School also means back the grind of days filled with meetings, practices, lessons and homework. Our kids are more over scheduled than ever these days. A friend was recently telling me about a three year old who is playing in a soccer league because Dad fears he'll "be behind" if he doesn't start young. Many of the grade school children I know (although not my own) carry cell phones to coordinate schedules with Mom and Dad. It can be crazy trying to keep everyone's schedules straight.

Extracurricular activities do have tremendous benefits as well.
Studies show that more children than ever are involved in enrichment activities away from home and school. Children who are engaged in meaningful enrichment activities learn time management, social skills and important physical fitness strategies. 

Extracurriculars also help working parents to ensure that children do not go home to empty houses, junk food, and a screen during those critical after school hours. Sports and lessons teach the value of team work, persistence and facing challenges. Hopefully, and most importantly, they are supposed to be fun!

As we enter into a new school year bursting with opportunities for learning and growth, sit down with your family and prioritize your plans for this year's extracurriculars. Discuss with each child independently his or her interests, goals, and schedules. Look carefully at the anticipated school work load, which should always take priority. Place at the top of the list religious education and service opportunities. If your child is signed up to play a sport, discuss the importance of commitment - make sure that he is enrolled because he, not his parent, is truly interested in playing. Do not commit to activities that overlap or will cause your family undue stress. 

If your child is interested in trying out an activity or sport for the first time, talk with the coach or teacher about the possibility of attending a practice or lesson prior to making a firm commitment. In short, talk up front about the activity's benefits and costs ( in terms of time, emotions, and finances) prior to finalizing registration.

I did not grow up to be a Scottish dancer, but I learned poise in front of a crowd from performing in recitals. My son Eric will likely not become a professional guitarist from those days playing in church, but he is learning about liturgy and deepening his love for our faith every Sunday. My son Adam may never Fence in the Olympics, but he is fit, confident and a good sport from his weekly bouts and training. Enter this year's extracurricular season with a good family meeting up front, a few car pools, and a firm grasp on the family calendar and you should be fine!

Lisa M. Hendey, wife and mother of two sons, is the webmaster of http://www.catholicmom.com and the podcast host of http://www.catholicmoments.com

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