Finding Your Child’s Passion Without Committing All Your Time And Money
By Erik Missio
PHOTO © Inspirestock International/123RF
Jan 9, 2018
There’s been a lot of discussion about the dangers of over-scheduling your kids, but after-school music classes or organized sports on the weekend can be part of a healthy balance.
Like virtually everything with parenting, it’s about finding the right balance that works for you, your kid and your means.
It can be so empowering to find a sport at which you excel or an activity you love, especially for kids who are not always super excited about their normal school day. Whether it is gymnastics or chess, being part of competitions offers a sense of belonging and accomplishment. It’s an opportunity to meet potential friends and another chance to shine. And let’s face it — extracurriculars can also be good for parents. Those 60 minutes your darling spends in the dance studio or taekwondo donjang may be the blissful recharge you need.
But here’s the thing — these activities don’t come cheap. They also don’t come without a certain amount of commitment. So how do you expose your child to their potentially favourite thing ever without breaking the bank or getting locked into something it turns out they hate?
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Finding the right fit
There are lots of reasons parents sign their kids up for something. Many families choose swimming lessons because of the safety angle — Canada is a land of lakes and pools. Others opt for violin because that’s what they did growing up. Or maybe you’re a hockey fanatic who never played; your daughter strapping on skates is offering her an opportunity you didn’t get (and a chance for you to live vicariously).
Also, the Olympic Winter Games are just around the corner — maybe your child watching speed skating is all it takes to inspire a lifelong love.
Sometimes, you just want something to keep them fit and healthy, or you need a reason to get your family out of the house on Saturday mornings. All these motives are totally viable, but sometimes asking your kids what they think they’d like to try can also be refreshingly successful.
If they love drawing or crafting at home, they might be really keen for art lessons. If they play footie with friends at recess, soccer may be the way to go. And you may have a piano sitting in your living room, but your child may really want to learn ukulele.
Of course, your kid may not know what they want. But check what sports or activities clubs your town or city has to show your child to see if it strikes a chord. Also, the Olympic Winter Games are just around the corner — maybe your child watching speed skating is all it takes to inspire a lifelong love.
Try before you buy
Even when you or your child is convinced a sport or activity will be a perfect fit, it’s not always meant to be.
But here’s the thing — these activities don’t come cheap.
Some kids who like camping are miserable in scouting; others certain they’re destined to be a prima ballerina decide they hate dancing after two classes of en pointe. Signing up for courses and seasons can be expensive and refunds may not be available. Many parents also want to show quitting isn’t OK and will drag their kids (and themselves) to every single game or class on principle — a summer of soccer is loooooong when no one is having fun.
It’s important to try things before you commit. This can be as simple as getting a bunch of friends and family together for a baseball game, spending an afternoon hitting balls with borrowed racquets, or asking a neighbour to run through some simple figure-skating steps ahead of you shopping for sequined costumes.
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You may eventually head deeper into the world of karate, ... or you may ditch it entirely for golf lessons.
Some studios will offer one-shot classes or pay-as-you-go sessions for kids. Although signing up for 10 weeks (or, gasp, a year) might net you a discount, going for two classes and having your child decide it’s not for them could be a lot cheaper in the long run.
In some cases, the clothing and equipment can easily cost more than the activity itself. Especially when your little one is trying something out, avoid the temptation to get all new stuff and ask friends for hand-me-downs or gently used gear.
You can often also save money by opting for less-expensive programming offered by municipalities rather than privately run clubs or associations. Your local community centre might not feel as ‘official’ as heading to a dedicated dojo with branded apparel, but it can be a good way to see whether this path is the right one. You may eventually head deeper into the world of karate, you may stick to the ‘standard’ parks and recreation program, or you may ditch it entirely for golf lessons.
There can be a lot of benefits to signing up kids for arts or sports programs (especially when they love it), but you don’t need to instantly commit all your time and money. Like virtually everything with parenting, it’s about finding the right balance that works for you, your kid and your means.