Today’s schoolchildren are faced with a competitive educational environment – they are expected to excel in academics and participate in extracurricular activities in order to be successful, particularly in secondary school.
Too often, kids can find expectations such as these overwhelming – as can their parents and carers – with the result that everyone gets stressed. The irony of this is that is increases the risk of failure and may have a negative effect on our children’s mental health.
Even universities and colleges evaluate a student’s acceptability for enrollment and a scholarship based on how “well-rounded” he or she is.
These facts present a perplexing set of problems for children as they move through the academic system, the greatest of which is to deliver good results in both areas without being overloaded.
Nowadays, children have so many choices and opportunities for after-school activities, such as dance, music lessons, sports and school clubs, that parental guidance is imperative to managing a student’s schedule.
Above all extracurricular commitments, however, is a responsibility to schoolwork which sometimes falls to procrastination or a second-level priority.
It is often left to the parent to bear the stress of balancing schoolwork, social activities, friendship and family time to the extent that it may sometimes seem overwhelming.
It is difficult to get a child to sit down to their maths homework if they just want to go out to play football or hang out with their mates.
Equally, we don’t want our kids to be ‘billy no mates’ by not spending time building friendships and participating in group activities.
At the very least, as parents we begin to understand what our parents went through with us!
Below are listed some suggestions that will help parents and kids manage both the fun and the learning aspects of school:
Based on your child’s school timetable, decide which and how many extracurricular activities he or she can handle each week. Depth of activity is more important than breadth. In other words, it’s better to do one or two things they really enjoy and can do well, than dip in and out of lots of different groups.
Budget for the cost of an activity. Kids need to understand financial limitations. Collectively select activities with those limitations in mind. They may well want to play the flute, have a drum kit or attend drama school but consider the extra items needed – kit, travel to competitions, orchestra practice etc.
It is crucial to work within the parent’s schedules and commitments, Don’t let your child’s activities interfere too much with the rest of the family’s routine.
Protect “family time” to ensure other children receive equal attention, and the family unit stays intact.
Establish the principle that if grades fall, activities diminish or stop. It doesn’t do the student any good to be the star football player or the head cheerleader if he or she has failing grades.
Help the student manage academic performance by:
Maintain a positive learning environment and a productive activity schedule without overloading the student. Parents can create undue stress by expecting too much.
Choose activities that will demonstrate a long-term commitment, such as academic clubs, a particular sport, dance, or music (mindful of budget, however).
Participate in diverse activities that will build character and serve well into adulthood.
Avoid activities that interfere with study time during school or at home.
Divide your time with the child equally between schoolwork and extracurricular activities. Be involved, but stay in balance.
Foster self-confidence and self-esteem by encouraging the student to do his or her personal best without creating an overachiever who is overwhelmed with stress.
Make sure the child has enough “me” time set aside in his or her schedule. All children need some uncommitted downtime to use as they choose.
Establish yourself as a supporter, not a dictator. Don’t force a student to continue in an activity to suit your wants; switching to something different can be a normal part of growing up as the child learns what he or she is interested in.
Ensure that everyone maintains proper health habits. Proper nutrition, plenty of sleep, and exercise help relieve stress and fatigue.
Balancing your child’s schoolwork load and his or her participation in extracurricular activities takes a team effort, but there is a huge payoff for everyone when the plan is successful. The suggestions above will go a long way in helping you create a positive school and activity experience for your kids.