Dear Dr. Hwang:
“Do you think that parents should require their children to participate in extra curricular activities?”
“Require,” might seem like strong-arming to an adolescent. There are times when parents should absolutely make executive decisions. And, if possible, there are times when negotiating might work more in your favor. It’s simply a tough call.
You know your child, so you know what possibilities exist. At this age some adolescence crave autonomy. Most often they want to be a part of the decision making process. More so, adolescents typically feel like they were heard all of the way through.
Too often, parents give absolute responses with no real explanation to follow. Offering up an explanation, free from lecture, in a calm voice can be very effective?
Every family has a culture in which decisions are made. My thoughts are ideas at best. I do not believe my response is more valuable than family values. Rather, they are ideas to entertain if they fit for you and your adolescent.
Having said this, I do believe in matching adolescents to extracurricular activities that help development. Extracurricular activities benefit kids in a broad range of ways: emotionally, physically, spiritually and psychologically.
Sports encourage teamwork, physical fitness, collaboration, discipline, empathy, independence and respect. Debate, Chess and Chemistry clubs also allow children an opportunity to develop, along side their same age peers, differently than they would with adults.
When I was an adolescent, I was fortunate because extracurricular activities didn’t cost much money, if anything at all. They gave me an opportunity to try new things with other kids my age. It helped shape ideas about what I liked and didn’t care for.
Sports showed me that I’m not an athlete but I can still engage in athletics. Orchestra taught me discipline, organization and an appreciation for music.
I did not excel in anyone area, but I enjoyed time with friends, learning new things and realizing that extra curricular activities help to develop us in ways that a school setting isn’t always able to tap into.
Kim S. Hwang, PsyD has a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. She is an adjunct professor at the Minnesota School of Professional Psychology.
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