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Parenting

Keeping Your Child’s Extracurriculars Under Control

Sep 12, 2013

In order to enjoy one hour of watching my son, Davis, play soccer, I have to go through my checklist:

  • Work through lunch so that I can leave work early.
  • Wash his uniform the night before.
  • Prepare the new puppy for the game with water bottle, poop bags, leash and treats.
  • Plan an early dinner that can be prepared, eaten and tidied up in 30 minutes.
  • Be sure his two teenage sisters don't have to be anywhere at the same time.

And that's just one night a week. I know some parents that juggle their schedules four to five times a week to get their kids to their activities. They seem to thrive on the go-go-go itinerary. Our family doesn't, so we have decided to limit Davis' extracurricular activities to twice a week. Davis also doesn't like having to rush through his evening, either. He is always so disappointed when he comes home from a game or lesson to find that he has time only to shower and go to bed. "Aww, I wanted to do something fun with you guys tonight! This sucks!" He says it every time. I agree with him because I feel cheated out of spending time with him, as well. I love cheering him on from the sidelines, but our time to get caught up on the day and just relax together is eaten up by the lightning-fast dinner, drive and activity (game, practice or lesson). But he does love his soccer games and swimming lessons when he's in the middle of them. In the winter, he skates and plays indoor soccer. We are considering adding music to the roster. Davis loves to sing and has an ear for music. His older sisters take singing lessons so maybe they can start their own group! Our family is also taking puppy training classes so we can learn how to deal with this little ball of fur that has taken over the house, and all of us, so that's another thing. Our goal for Davis is to give him the basics in swimming, skating, team sports and music. When he gets a little older, we think he might enjoy golf or tennis. Davis hasn't shown a real passion for any one thing in particular, but he is enthusiastic about all of it. We are enthusiastic too, but only twice a week!

Expert advice from Psychologist Sara Dimerman: Children, like adults, can feel overwhelmed from always being on the run. By occupying our children every waking moment, we don't teach them the value of downtime and of enjoying their own company during quiet moments. Having said that, activities outside of school can be really valuable. Ideally, parents should explore as many activities as time and money allows before their child goes into Grade 1, when both child and parent may have more free time. After Grade 1, it's best to refine the choices according to your child's interest and aptitude. Limiting extracurricular activities to two per week is a good idea. Religious or cultural lessons may be a third, depending on your inclination and the age of your child. Your child might choose one of the activities, and the second activity may be something that you feel is an essential life skill, such as swimming. It's all about balance and what works for you.

Meghan Bradley is a full-time sales rep and mother of Davis, 7, and stepmother to twins Madison and Mackenzy, 16. To read more of Meghan's Mommy Diaries, visit raisingdavis.com.

Originally published in ParentsCanada, August/September 2013.

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