Everyone needs extracurricular activities, especially children. After a long day at school, kids need a way to blow of steam, but exactly how many activities are appropriate? The answer isn’t that simple. More and more students seem to be experiencing something that looks a lot like burnout. Parents are pushing kids to keep up with a wide variety of activities in order to boost their college applications, but at a heavy cost. Think that your kid may be involved in too many extracurricular activities? Here are some tips to help you and your child decide when enough is enough.
Is it love?
When your child is involved in any activity, it should be something they love. As an educator, I can’t tell you how many students I have taught over the years who talk about their swim team or piano lessons with nothing but contempt. They have little or no interest in the activity, yet their parents force them to continue. While commitment is something we should instill in our children, forcing them to commit to activities for years at a time seems counterproductive. If your child isn’t in love, let it go.
I once tutored a sophomore beginning at 9 p.m. Yes, NINE at night. I often watched her type her papers with one hand while she shoveled dinner into her mouth with the other. Because her soccer practices often ran late, she was having trouble keeping up with her regular homework. Science has long shown us that the teen years are a period of rapid growth and change. Teens tend to sleep much more than we would like, but this is mostly because they need it. Scheduling activities and sports that interfere with proper sleep can cause prolonged fatigue and academic problems. Trading sleep and academic success for a sport or activity seems like a bad trade. If we want our kids to excel in their studies, we have to offer them opportunities to study and rest.
Spread too thin
If your child is lucky enough to find an activity that inspires them, fantastic! Don’t get too excited just yet. Even if your child is passionate about a sport or activity, always be sure that they aren’t spreading themselves too thin. Many parents worry that simply participating in one activity isn’t enough. They encourage their children to play multiple sports and participate in a wide variety of activities. While variety is a great way to expose kids to different strengths, spreading them too thin is not. In fact, most college admissions counselors look for students who have real commitments to a few activities rather than one who has tried a wide variety.
Be willing to adjust
Your child might be able to handle practice for five nights a week during freshman year, but the same schedule may not work as well for sophomore year. When students begin enrolling in AP classes or studying for the SAT or ACT exams, it’s always a good idea to do a little temperature check. If classes become more challenging, kids may wish to pull back a bit on activities. Your child’s health and well-being should always come first, so be sure to check in with them whenever classes and schedules change.
As parents, we always have our children’s best interest at heart. We all want our kids to try new and exciting things and expose them to a wide variety of activities. We always have to remember that our kids may not recognize when their activities are “too much” and it’s our jobs to help them recognize when enough is enough.