In a prior blog post, I wrote about the importance of having your children participate in a variety of after-school activities and the benefits that doing so provide. Today, I would like to extend a cautionary note that those activities should enhance their childhood experiences, not inhibit them. Children who are overexposed to activities can suffer from headaches; feel tired, anxious or depressed; and suffer a drop in their grades. Here are a few tips on how to have your children involved in extracurriculars, while still giving them the chance to be children:
- Time: According to most experts, children should not spend more than 10 to 20 hours a week participating in out of school activities. If they spend any more time than this, they will not have enough time to do their homework, adequately prepare for tests, and be with their families. Choosing activities that meet bi-weekly or monthly could be healthier options for children, rather than those that meet once or several times a week.
- Request: Before enrolling your children in an extracurricular activity, it is best to ask if they want to join in it. This way, it will be an activity that they want to do, not an activity that they are being forced to do. Also, try not to pressure your children to outdo themselves or anyone else in their respective activities. Never compare what they are doing or not doing with other children.
- Your schedule: Ask yourself whether you or your spouse have the time to drive them to and from each activity. Adding too many activities can wreak havoc on your schedule too and cause a lot of stress.
The balance between school, homework, play, and family time can be difficult. The important issue is that you try to balance all four, with an emphasis on what works for the family unit as a whole. No activity should take the place of spending quality time together as a family or put too much stress on family life.