Encouraging Extracurriculars

Experts believe that extracurricular activities are very important to a youth’s development. After-school programs, sports, part-time jobs, clubs and other activities can offer youth a safe and supervised haven and a chance to learn new skills. These skills can be critical in helping youth prepare for adulthood and avoid behavior problems. There are many benefits to extracurricular activities:

Benefits of After-School Activities

Friends. A club or group is a great way to find friends and combat loneliness, which is an epidemic in the young generation. Youth can meet others who share their interests.

College. Extracurricular activities look good on college and job applications. It can demonstrate to admissions officers and employers that your teen is well-rounded and responsible. Additionally, most studies find that children who participate in these activities are more successful academically than those who don’t.

Creativity. After-school activities can provide a positive outlet for creativity, curiosity, and problem-solving.

Teamwork. Teamwork is an important life skill both in home life and at work. Many extracurricular activities require students to work together to achieve a common goal and remove the focus from the individual to the team. Respect for coaches, teachers, leaders and their peers can also be developed through group activities.

Time Management. Participating in one or more activities can teach a child how to juggle school, homework, family life, and their after-school activities. It will help them learn the importance of priorities and planning.

Self-Confidence. For a teen who is not gifted academically, the chance to excel in the arts or in sports, for example, can make a huge difference in self-esteem. Additionally, when children learn new skills and engage in social activities, they become more self-confident. Learning social skills, like cooperation, negotiation, and conflict resolution, in a fun and relaxed environment will help them interact appropriately with others – a skill valuable in all aspects of life from home life to the workplace.

Stress Relief. The point of extracurricular activities is to participate in something you enjoy doing. When your teen finds an enjoyable activity, it can help them combat the stress from school. Additionally, many sports, classes and clubs take place in a relaxing environment and begin with warm-up techniques or exercises which promotes healthy methods for coping with stress.

Real-World Skills. Many extracurricular activities – such as journalism, photography, debate, or even part-time jobs like cutting lawns or babysitting – teach real-world skills. They also allow students to explore different interests they have, which can lead to lifelong hobbies or even careers.

Avoiding Risky Behaviors. High school students who spend no time in extracurricular activities are 49% more likely to have used drugs and 37% more likely to become teen parents than students who spend one to four hours per week in extracurricular activities. Lack of supervision, idle time or boredom tends to lead youth in the direction of bad behavior, which is evident when research shows that the peak hours for juvenile crime and for youth becoming a victim of violence are between 3 and 6 p.m. Experts note that the self-esteem and sense of purpose that youth can get from serious involvement in extracurricular activities may help raise their aspirations and give them a reason to say “no” to risky behaviors.

Ideas for After-School Activities

Now that you know that there are so many benefits to extracurricular activities, the next step is to help your teen find one that fits their interests. Here are some ideas:

Sports. Join a team, ranging from basketball, baseball, soccer, track, gymnastics, tennis, aerobics, volleyball, and swimming. Many teams and classes are available within your community, such as through the school, Recreation Department, or local YMCA.

Clubs. Most schools offer a multitude of clubs such as the debate team, chess club, student government, newspaper, yearbook, environmental club, language clubs, drama, choir, photography, band, business, computer club, and much more. In addition, there are other clubs outside of schools that your teen may enjoy, such as the 4-H and scouts.

Classes. Many communities offer classes your teen can take, such as martial arts, dance, art, cooking, music, photography, exercise, and much more! Taking a class can teach your teen a new skills while also introducing him/her to new like-minded people. Many times, these classes can help a teen discover a talent or passion.

Part-time jobs. Employment – such as bagging food at the local grocery story, mowing lawns, washing cars, pet sitting, and babysitting – provides many benefits. A part-time job will help your teen learn responsibility, obtain valuable work experience for a resume, develop confidence and independence, and learn to manage their own finances.

Community service. Volunteering can keep teens occupied while developing a sense of purpose, self-confidence, gratitude, and personal responsibility. In addition to teaching teens the joy of giving back, volunteer work looks great on college applications and resumes.

A Parent’s Role in Outside Activities

  • Carpooling. Before you think of the many miles and hours you will spend driving your children around to different activities as a chore, consider how you are contributing to your child’s development (see the benefits above). Plus, you can use the time in the car to talk with your teen to gain new insight into your child’s life and views.
  • Balancing. Parents must help their children balance all of the demands on their time. There are no specific rules to determine how many activities are too much, but helping your child learn time management skills could be one of the most valuable lessons you teach them. Remind them that they must take care of themselves (by getting enough sleep, eating right, exercising) to enjoy the additional activities they undertake.
  • Advocating. Support your school and other organizations that offer high-quality activities. Consider volunteering as a scout leader, coach or club leader. Parents who participate with their child may even find that they grow closer as they share conversation about their child’s interests.
  • Encouragement and Support. Parents need to be supportive of their teen’s activities and interests, even if they are not fond of the chosen activity. Don’t force your adolescent into a sport or activity that interests you. Encourage your child to stick with an activity even if it appears difficult. Practice the activity with your child and support him or her by attending their events as often as possible.

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