Extracurricular Activities: How Much is Too Much? - Mums NI - A Hub For Parents in Northern Ireland

Extracurricular Activities: How Much is Too Much?

Mums NI
Written by Mums NI on Thursday, 29 June 2017 Posted in: Your Kids Education

Extracurricular Activities: How Much is Too Much?

Most parents want the best for their children and part of that is encouraging them to take part in new hobbies and activities. We do this to see what they enjoy, to find out what they are good at and where their talents lie. Whether it be sports, arts, music or science & tech. These days there is a club or activity to suit every child.

But it’s hard to juggle an active extracurricular participation, with the demands of their educational workload. So where do we draw the line? How do we know when they need a push and when we need to back off?

The benefits of extracurricular activities are well known, from physical and mental health, to increasing social awareness, your child will benefit from getting involved in clubs and activities, whether it be sports or music.

With so much focus being placed on grades and school performance, we often forget that we’re supposed to raising well rounded people - not grade machines! Although we at Mums NI will never downplay the importance of educational achievement, it is still important that a young person gets to experience new hobbies and meet new friends. Furthermore, extracurricular activities can reduce anxiety, stress, and burnout and their effects on mental and physical health.

However, pupils with more than ten extracurricular activities a week had a four per cent lower grade average than normal and even achieved worse results than school friends who had no organised pursuits outside school.

So where do we draw the line?

Do whatever relieves stress and reduces pressure

While extracurricular activities are important for your child's mental and physical health, we need to be aware of our child’s needs when things get tough. One of the big questions facing parents of exam aged kids is:

“Should my child give up on extracurricular activities during GCSE’s or A-Levels?”

The short answer is NO!

The long answer is, it depends on your child.

Kids go through an awful lot of stress and are under so much pressure during exam time, why would we want to increase that pressure by removing a valued activity from their life? On the other hand, we don’t want them sacrificing a good grade in a subject in order for them to play a match or take an extra music class.

The only advice we can give is to “read” your child. Are they more stressed about their exams or about winning the match? Is the extracurricular activity adding to their pressures or relieving them?

Get involved

How you will know what works best for your child is having as much information at your disposal as possible. If possible, get involved with your children's activity, talk to their coaches or class leader, relay their advice to their teachers in school and get recommendations from everyone involved.

Between you, your child, the coach/class leader and teachers, you will be able to come up with plan to will best fit your child.

Balance

It's important that kids don't try to "do it all", having a balanced approach to their extracurricular activities is important. In fact, having a balanced approach to all aspects of their life will help with exam stress and benefit them in the long run. Watch for clashes in their timetables for different activities - is the class or match the night before an exam? Make sure coaches and class leaders know, if they don’t already, what your child is doing at school and other aspect of their life. Most coaches and class leaders have been through it all and understand!

How to choose an extracurricular activity

Here’s Mums NI’s quick guide to different types of extracurricular activities

Music and performing arts

Schools often hold productions, such as musicals or plays, that allow students to perform on stage, play as part of an orchestra or even help out behind the scenes with the technical aspects of the production (lighting and costume, for example). For younger kids, there are many out-of-school drama clubs for instance Brassneck Theatre Company in Belfast that cater for primary school aged children.

Sport and outdoor education

Every school will have a sports program that includes all sorts of field sports from Football, Hockey, Gaelic Football & Hurling to Rugby. Most will have provision for court games like Netball and Basketball also. But our best advice is to ask at the school.

Outdoor sports and recreation is not limited to field and court sports, in Northern Ireland we have an abundance of outdoor opportunities like rock climbing, canoeing, hill walking and kite flying. Think outside the box and you might find your child will find their passion.

Personal development programs

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is aimed at anyone between the ages of 14 and 24 who wants to get involved in life rather than watch it pass by. The Award enables you to help other people or your community, get fitter, develop skills and gain experiences, friends and talents that will stay with them for the rest of their life. Participants complete a tailored program that incorporates awards such as physical recreation, skill, volunteering, adventurous journey and residential project. The award is completed at bronze, silver or gold level over a set amount of time.

Academic competitions

There are many academic competitions open to students in areas such as maths, science and English, as well as in more specialised subjects such as IT or Economics. Debating competitions are another great option (available in most schools), allowing students to compete against other schools in local debating competitions.

Tagged with: 11 plus, advice for exam time, advice forum for mums, Extracurricular Activities, stressed kids
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