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Does it seem like extra-curricular activities are starting younger and younger every year? These days, you can even choose programs for your preschooler. It’s a good thing, but it can certainly put pressure on us parents.
You want your child to be involved in everything, but you both have limited time and energy. And if you have multiple kids, you may have to worry about inevitable scheduling conflicts. Even the thought of afterschool programs is enough to overwhelm the most seasoned parents.
But take a deep breath. You’re going to get through this school year with all the right afterschool programs. All it takes is a little planning-in-advance.
How to choose the right afterschool programs for your kids
Parents often stress about these decisions, and then they’ll even second-guess themselves afterward. Try not to put yourself through this. Think the decision through, talk it out with your child, and pick the best option.
Work with your schedule
There will be some extracurriculars that have obvious red flags. For example, you may find the perfect activity, but they only meet on a day that’s not possible for your child’s schedule. But even if an activity looks good on the surface, dig a little deeper. Find out if there are practices, recitals or competitions outside of the normal schedule. If you can’t make those, it may or may not be a deal breaker, but it’s something you should know upfront. So, if your child takes up soccer and there’s a big tournament that takes place while you’re on vacation, you’ll have a decision to make.
Pick something fun
First and foremost, decide which type of activity you think is best for your child’s development. This activity should incorporate at least one of your child’s natural interests (e.g. running, sports, music, etc.) And you get bonus points for choosing something that they’re likely to stick with.
For example, if your daughter is interested in dance, you may choose ballet, hip hop, jazz or modern dance. Think about which is best-suited for her personality. Do you imagine her dancing throughout her life? Sit down and talk about the differences between each style with her to decide which she’d be most interested in pursuing. Kids naturally get bored with afterschool programs, but she’ll have the best chance for success if she truly knows what she’s getting into.
Commit to making it work
Once the season starts, it’s time to make this extracurricular activity work. This may mean forcing your child to go when he’s feeling lazy or working your schedule around his events.
About a week before the activity starts, get a copy of the schedule and ensure your car is working well. If you need to get an oil change or new tires, now is the time. This is especially true if the activity involves road trips or carpooling. You don’t want to get stuck at the last minute and miss a big event.
Re-evaluate when it’s over
Now that the season is over, it’s time to think about whether this was the right choice for your family. This isn’t about blame or regret. You made a calculated decision and it’s time to weigh the benefits and the setbacks.
What did your child gain from the experience? Did she complain through the season or did she mostly enjoy time spent there? Did she learn a skill that she can improve upon?
It helps to think about these things while the experience is fresh in your mind, so the next decision will be easier. Maybe your child does the same activity next year or maybe he’ll try something new. Either way, you’ll make the right decision for your child and family.