There’s the fun stuff — like sports, arts, playing with technology, clubs of all descriptions — which your child expects to enjoy.
And there’s the lessons that your child likely thinks of as an extension of their nine-to-four work, such as tutoring, language classes, and physical training.
It may become apparent in the course of their school year that some of these latter activities are necessary to supplement your child’s education, perhaps even to help them succeed in their usual classroom work.
But before then, it can be a struggle for a parent to determine which extracurricular activities a child shoulod be signed up for. So many questions.
What would your child really enjoy? What if your child changes his or her mind once they get into the activity and find it’s not what they want?
How many activities should be signed up for during one semester — something once a week? Something different for every evening?
Activities that provide them additional skills — or perhaps even some kind of official credit? Or just for entertainment?
What excites your child?
Before taking any action, spend some time with your child sounding them out. Find out anything they’re interested in that isn’t offered already at school, or something new they would be intrigued to investigate.
Or maybe there is a club or team at school that seems to have interesting time they’d like to be part of — either for the activity itself or to socialize with the other members.
What are the child’s strengths?
Your child is most going to enjoy working at an activity that they can succeed at. You likely already know if your child is gifted at sports, in art, in music, in drama, at dance, or playing with computers — which may give you a direction for the kind of extracurricular activity that could build on this native talent.
You may also take into account if your child has a natural bent toward socializing with his or her peers. Are there activities available that incorporate a lot of interaction with others?
Does your child seem to have excessive amounts of physical energy that could be exploited in fast-moving athletic endeavours, such as track, football, soccer or martial arts?
What are the child’s weaknesses?
But the well-rounded student should not spend all hours working in the areas where they already thrive. You want your child to be able to face new challenges and discover new talents that have lain latent within.
For example, your child may lack confidence in public appearances and so would never think of joining a drama society. However, many famous actors are actually shy in person but discovered they could take on new personalities on stage. Even if the jump to public performance is too scary at the moment, your child could find a place in one of the many positions back stage and experience the excitement of live drama in that capacity.
But you don’t want to force your child into an area in which no interest is evinced. And you don;t want to sign your child up for hours of work that only stress them out.
You just want to sound your child out and encourage a consideration of new options.
Uncertain? Ask the coaches
It may be useful for you and your child to discuss a considered activity with the instructor or coach who leads the activity, whether it is at the school or in a separate organization. They may have a better idea how well your child will fit into the program and be able to make suggestions for improvements to be sought.
What if you make a mistake?
As the semester progresses, check with your child to see on well they are doing. If they’re not enjoying what they’re doing, the time is probably counter-productive.
You need not continue with an extracurricular activity that your child is coming to hate or losing sleep over.
You can always drop it — and start the search for a more productive pastime.