After school and summer programs contribute to education as much as formal classes. As a parent, you can guide your teen toward activities that will help them to achieve more in college and in the workforce.
Consider these ways to help your teen get the most out of extracurricular programs.
What to Look for in Extracurricular Programs
1. Work as a team. Collaborating with others on common goals is one of the most valuable experiences any young person can have. Being exposed to people from different backgrounds will get them ready to participate in a diverse workplace.
2. Make new friends. Long term friendships add so much joy and comfort to our lives. The connections your child makes today could be their future college roommates and companions in old age.
3. Serve in leadership roles. Leadership takes practice. It’s good to sample what it’s like to take charge of a project before you get your first job.
4. Find mentors. Summer science camps and afternoon dance lessons are a great place for children to meet older youths and adults they can look up to. These interactions supply practical advice and opportunities to build up confidence.
5. Master new material. Teens may want to supplement what they learn in class. On the other hand, they may decide to explore a whole new field.
6. Take on challenges. Any extracurricular activity is worthwhile if it helps your teen to grow. They can focus on their own fulfillment instead of worrying about grades.
How to Support Your Teen’s Participation in Extracurricular Programs
1. Provide encouragement. Be a cheerleader for your child. Let them know you’re proud of them for giving their best effort. Remind them of their abilities and past accomplishments.
2. Step back. At the same time, let them make their own decisions as much as possible. Mistakes are educational.
3. Coordinate logistics. Your teen may need help managing time and transportation. Organize a car pool or explain the train schedule to them.
4. Arrange financing. Similarly, some hobbies cost more than others. Rent a tuba or ask about teen rates at the YMCA. If your budget is stretched, ask your child if they’d rather go on a class ski trip and take a more modest family vacation later.
5. Be a good role model. Your teen will notice how you spend your free time. Let them see you volunteering, gardening, and hiking.
6. Allow for unstructured time. Even in the midst of so many demands, free time is essential to nurture creativity and hang out with friends. Set aside quiet time for reflection or anything your child wants to do.
7. Avoid overload. Every individual is different but watch for symptoms of overdoing it. If your child seems depressed or tired, ask them if they’d like to adjust their schedule. Explain that this is evidence of good judgment and the ability to set priorities.
8. Expect changes. Adolescence lends itself to experimentation. Kids may rapidly lose interest in ice hockey and want to take up swimming.
9. Limit screen time. One of the biggest obstacles to managing time well is setting reasonable limits on phones, televisions, and other electronic devices. Turn the TV off unless you’re watching a special program. Keep track of internet time not related to school work.
10. Monitor school work. Extracurricular activities often enhance performance at school, but some caution may be needed. Stick to a consistent bedtime and ask your child’s teacher if they see any sign that outside commitments are interfering with academics.
A balance of enriching activities will prepare your teen for a happy and successful future. Show them how to use their free time to develop their skills and form meaningful relationships.