By Amy Alamar, EdD
Each year, I find myself sitting on the bleachers talking to other parents as we watch our kids kick, foul or score in their chosen sport. As we talk, you’d think we’re all raising the next Olympic contender, who also happens to major in classical piano with a minor in Ancient Greek – in case a gold medal doesn’t work out. I admit that, along with other proud parents, I may pressure my kids to reach the next competitive or performance level. In fact, it was my own son, repeatedly requesting to play rec soccer after we’d ask, “are you sure you don’t want to sign up for the soccer camp or tryout for the travel team? After all, you’ll improve more if you play with better players!” that I finally realized that I didn’t need to push extracurricular activities on my family, especially those complete with undue stress and commitment.
Tips for supporting extracurriculars while keeping your sanity:
Prioritize Activities: Make a list. With your child’s input, rank each activity of interest. Consider costs, time, and importance. Pick one or two. Remember, it’s ok if all 24 hours aren’t filled to the brim.
Better to Build Character: The Positive Coaching Alliance suggests that athletics are an excellent opportunity to build character and life-long skills as well as fitness. Winning is fun and a healthy sense of competition will serve your child well into adulthood. That said, your child stands to learn as much or more from drills and losing than from winning and victory parties. I know that four losing seasons of soccer taught my son humility and made winning basketball games more dear.
Exploration Versus Mastery: On top of fitness we want to encourage creativity. When we’re debating yet another after school art or computer class we always consider: do the kids look forward to it and talk about it after? Do they program or paint over the weekend? If so, great, encourage it. If not, time to take a break.
To Quit or Not to Quit: My daughter, a budding gymnast about to make the junior team, suddenly decided to quit! We were torn. Do we support her decision or push her to challenge herself? Before making this kind of assessment make sure whatever you decide it’s for a reason you can all live with. If it’s too hard, encourage your child to seize the opportunity and speak with the teacher about changing the expectations rather than calling it quits. And, if you agree that this is a good time to call it quits, remember, it might just be a break. Quitting doesn’t have to be forever.
Amy Alamar, EdD, is a parent educator with a focus on undersourced students, literacy, curriculum design and constructivist education. In late 2014, she published her first book entitled: Parenting for the Genius: Developing Confidence in Your Parenting through Reflective Practice (For the Genius Press, 2014), a comprehensive guide to becoming the most thoughtful and confident parent possible, with anecdotes and details relating to the guidance and support of children in specific age ranges throughout their formative years. (www.amyalamar.com)