practical parenting

Benefits of Extra Curricular Activities

Extra Curricular Activities can be explained as any activity outside of a child's normal curriculum including school and home. Most extra curricular's include same age peers and are instructed by a facilitator. Experts in child advancement suggest that participation in extracurricular activities on a regular basis is the best way to help children develop their individual personality, cut down on emotional stress, and enhance social or academic skills that could benefit them in the future.

There are several reasons parents choose to involve their children in an activity outside of school. The benefits can be so wide and varied. For my daughters I chose to put them both into extra curricular activities because I knew that I wanted to raise well rounded children. I wanted them to have a balance of both academics and skill, because my belief is that one enhances the other. I also made sure that academics came first. My oldest, Kennedy (9), needed to know that it is just as important for her to be book smart as it is to excel in a sport. So before she was able to participate she would have to establish strong work habits. Note: I start Kennedy into programs a few months after school has started, meaning she needs to have her school routine down. Not only did I want to avoid feelings of her being overwhelmed, it was a way for me to monitor if she was actually prepared to take on the task of adding additions onto her schedule. For my younger daughter, Karter (2), it was making sure that I allowed for her to share experiences with other children, but reminding myself that individual learning and free play is also essential.

I have broken down my top reasons to consider having your child join a sport, club, or even volunteer. Because building strong children doesn't equate to books only, but a diverse amount of experiences that will build your child's resiliency.

Top 5

1. Enhances Your Child's Academics- if a child learns something new in an after school activity, it could boost their understanding of school subjects — even if that activity doesn’t relate directly to classwork. Discovering that they have a talent for something can give children a new source of confidence or passion that translates into their behavior at school. 

2. Increasing Life and Social Skills- Regardless of whether they’re establishing new relationships, or building upon existing friendships, after school activities provide an ideal environment in which to nurture social skills and confidence. Numerous extracurricular activities work to teach children the value of working as a team to achieve a mutual goal — a skill that will benefit them in their future occupation.

3. Building Happy Children- After school activities offer a positive environment in which children can grow and thrive when parents are working and unable to make it home for right after school. Many adults today stay at work after the school day has ended. After school activities remove the temptation to sit in front of a television set. With this being said children are able to burn off extra energy, relax their minds, relieve childhood stress associated with school. Basically it's a break, and we all need breaks!

4. Creating Healthy Habits- Children can begin to learn concepts of time management and responsibility. As I said before children have to find a balance between school, home and activity. They have to begin to understand how to manage their time and follow schedules to ensure they are successful in multiple things at once. Note: Please, please, please allow your child to also have free time. They should continue to enjoy the spontaneity of just being little. Nothing is more upsetting than a child who is overbooked. This could be counteractive as it can create stress and perfectionism types of personalities. They also have to begin understanding concepts of discipline because skills are taught by someone other than parent/teachers, as well as working together to complete a goal with same like peers.

5. Building Stronger Futures!- Creating more options for children sets them up for success. When we begin to limit the amount of experiences for our children we begin to pigeon hold them into what "we want" them to be. Allow them to explore, make mistakes, and experience failure. As parents we have to prepare our children for reality based situations. 

Don't!

  • An extra curricular activity should be fun and a creative outlet and should never take over academic interest.
  • Getting used to video games/i-pad is not an extra curricular activity.
  • We should not force our ambitions on our kids under disguise of extra curricular activity.
  • An extra curricular activity is a structured fun time for the child; we must ensure child has adequate unstructured activity time as well; else you will create a slave to timetable driven life.
  • You may have taken trouble in making your child join/take up a specific activity but if your child does not enjoy it – just quit! You may be doing more harm than good. But also challenge them to complete, because we want to teach children to finish things they commit to. 

As if we don't have a million other things on our plate, don't let time or money be your reason. It takes a village. Find local resources and free activities in your community. If travel is hard, find programming linked with your child's school. Be creative when looking for reduced price activities such as your local churches and YMCAs. Inquiring goes a long way. Sacrifices are to be made as parents, outcomes will be worth it!

"Consistency" is a Major Key"

If there is one thing this move has taught me, it is that kids rely on consistency and structure.

Rewind.

Earlier this year my husband and I decided to buy an investment property. We lived in our first home for 7 years and it was just time. The buyer/seller market was phenomenal, I was employed with excellent credit, husband was close to finishing school, and most importantly my husband and I always discuss taking risk within the limitations of our family. It's very easy to get comfortable, but comfortable keeps you stagnant at times. So change for us was calling our name because giving our girls more for the future means planning for it.

It has always been important for me to provide my girls with a sense of stability. I want them to grow up in a community that feels like an extension of family.
— Me

Of course we had conversations about what that would look like for our children because you can't be a parent of two and not consider subjects like school districts, cost of child care, environmental safety, how will they adjust, and most importantly is it close to my mom, lol Either way I knew there would be challenges but I planned to face them head strong. Thank God for my title as an "early childhood mental health therapist" because it provides me with a stronger source of information on how to address childhood anxiety, childhood stress and concerns with adjustment.

Moving is often stressful for most adults, this warrants the same response for children. Moving to a new town or even a new neighborhood is stressful at any age, but a new study shows that frequent relocation's in childhood are related to poorer well-being in adulthood, especially among people who are more introverted or neurotic. Now I am not saying all parents should avoid change. Some change is good because it teaches kids concepts of adaptability as well as resiliency. It's when it becomes routine that kids little bodies can't adjust or feel safe (don't know what to expect). There can be both pros and cons to this argument. The ideal is that we do our best as parents to provide mental wellness to our children by doing what we ultimately feel is right.

My husband grew up a military kid, who moved around like a leaf in the wind. He became too comfortable with change and has a personality that blends in like a chameleon.
— Me

For my oldest daughter I knew it would be hard. It was the only house she knew. She felt safe and secure. She's had the same group of friends, had her routine down, and just felt comfortable about the way she was going through life. Once I poured the news to her in a positive manner, explaining that her room would be bigger, she will be closer to the activities she enjoys, and meeting new friends, all I saw was weeping. It was hard for her to understand that life could possibly start over, at least that's how she felt in that moment. I also shared this news to my very strong willed 2 year old. With the understanding that kids as young as her are able to understand concepts that are explained to them. And just as much as I wanted to prep my oldest, I equally prepped my youngest daughter as well.

Fast forward.

We sell our home. Our new home is scheduled to have 60 days of renovations and we decide to move with family. A family with children of their own, schedules of their own, routines, and limits. Now I am 3 weeks in and have developed 5 ways I was able to provide my children with consistency. That has decreased the stress of change, and create happier human beings (both parents and children).

Home is where the heart is, but giving my children something to build upon will keep the heart beating.
— Me

Major Keys:

1. Prepping- Have conversations with your children. Be open and also allow feedback. Validate for your child that it can be scary and sad. Allow them to air it out, and be honest. This also goes for super little ones. I explained to Karter we were moving, she helped pack her toys, she knows we have a new house, etc. Young children feel the stress of change too. Don't ignore a fussy toddler, pr snotty tween. Allow them to need you a little more. Little people's feelings are big for them, and can seem small to us.

2. Keep connections- When I knew for sure we were moving I made my older daughter collect all names and numbers of her friends. Thankfully we weren't moving out of state, so I explained to her she could plan a big sleepover, visit, etc. Moving doesn't warrant forgetting the children your child has connected with. Even if going out of town, I would use the benefits of technology, or even becoming Pen-Pals!

3. Familiarity- During moving process. Allow your child to have things that are familiar. We are staying with family, so I made sure to pack bedding from their actual beds, favorite toys, and little reminders of home. This was really great for Karter (2). It was easier to put her down for bed, or adjust to playing in a foreign place when things felt familiar around her.

4. Routines/Schedules- Routines and schedules should be the same as much as possible. Predictability allows for a child to know what to expect next, which prevents meltdowns during a transition they are not use to. This was one of the most challenging concepts for me. My uncle who we are living with has a very passive parenting style, he also has children that are the same age as mine. I had to be very diligent about telling the girls to eat dinner, do homework, bedtime, etc when their cousins weren't doing the same thing. In the beginning it was a fuss "Why do they", but now it's to be expected. More importantly when moving again to our home we won't have to start over. Kids yearn for structure. Knowing how to operate makes them operate more efficiently.

5. More Love- if anything can fix it,  a calm and nurturing spirit can. Be patient. Allow and expect your child to have a reaction via negative or positive. Expect them to cry, act out, be a little more defiant. It's part of the adjustment process. It can be hard for kids to communicate exactly how they feel. Be understanding, and offer them more hugs and kisses that will release some of the anxiety of transitioning. Kids react the way parents do. When a child sees you flooded with emotion, they too will take on those feelings.

Change is unavoidable. Change is a part of life. And change makes us discover more. We as parents have to learn ways to provide a balance within the realms of our families that makes us feel comfortable. Children are one of the most resilient groups of people. The more we can plan for their success the more successful we can feel as parents.

Cheers to new Beginnings!