At the time when a new school year begins , parents and children have to adapt to the new agenda that they will presumably have throughout the year. This situation is a real headache for families. In general, the vast majority choose to enroll their children in extracurricular activities.
There are two main reasons for choosing this decision. The first is that the children are busy (this will depend on the needs of each family environment, as well as their possibilities). The second is that some parents find it very beneficial for their children to attend them. Thus, they seek to improve their creative or intellectual capacity or also, that they can practice a sport that helps them develop their physical and sporting condition.
In our country, it is estimated that the number of young people (aged between 6 and 16 years) who carry out some kind of extracurricular activity is 9 out of 10. More than 50% even carry out two or more activities at a time. same time on a weekly basis.
Among the most prominent, sports are consolidated as the preferred option (72.8%). In second position we have languages (28.4%). They are followed by arts such as music or dance (24.9%). Behind are drawing, painting or computing (22.3% and 21.2% respectively).
But to what extent is it interesting to subject our children to this burden? In the following lines we are going to reveal it.
Overload of activities to get successful children.
Experts say that the problem itself is not doing some kind of extracurricular activity. In fact, they can be beneficial , if it does not take away all their free time and they do not involve intensive effort . The real problem is the approach given to them.
The real problem that should be tackled is the hours parents have, the chaotic economic situations that some households are going through, the lack of aid from the Government (for example, not allowing to request leave of absence during the first years of their children), as well as other related problems.
The conclusion of the study of the problem always reaches the same point: there is a time and a place to do everything.
Experts determine that if a child is to learn, he must do so by playing . The moment the child is overloaded, he is subjected to great stress.
This child anxiety , rather than facilitating learning, what it achieves is exactly the opposite effect.
Due to the situation our country has gone through and is going through, especially related to economic problems, more and more children are spending more hours without an adult watching out for them.
Competitive labor market.
Furthermore, we live in a very competitive society . Every day we actively fight to be the best. For example, getting a job has become quite an odyssey today.
There are very few positions and with the request of very high requirements to be eligible for them. With all this panorama, parents see the need for their children to be the best. They think that extracurricular activities may be the solution. And it may be so, but as long as they are controlled.
Experts also warn about the importance of the game. Parents should not think that when the child plays he is wasting time. Play and friends are part of an important evolutionary process in your mind.
When deciding on a certain extracurricular activity, it must be to the child’s liking. This way, it will catch your attention from the first moment and you will learn by playing.
Very demanding parents.
It is becoming more and more fashionable to speak of ” helicopter parents “. This is the name given to overly controlling parents, who are continually monitoring their children’s activities.
These “helicopter” parents figuratively fly over their children, alert to any sign that may take them away from their meticulously planned duties.
They are very demanding and controlling parents who begin to plan the life of their child, before it is born. They design a complex itinerary that will lead them to social and professional success.
Everything is planned based on success, although this requires sacrificing the child’s happiness. It doesn’t matter that you lose your playing hours or stop meeting your friends. What nonsense! What a waste of time to spend hours playing!
For these parents the motto is “He who wants something costs something.” In these cases the price is usually quite expensive.
The child, in addition to his school agenda, has a long series of extracurricular activities. These are not exactly on track for their fun, but to ensure their success in school, which will be the prelude to academic, work and social success.
If the son does not rebel against these impositions, he will have become a “winner” at the cost of having renounced his childhood, his friends and the game.
It is not unreasonable to think that all these resignations will sooner or later affect your mental health.
Now, what are these parents looking for? Are you looking for the success or happiness of your children? Or are they trying to compensate for their frustrations and make their fantasies come true through their children.
Children of successful parents.
It is not uncommon to find parents who have managed to succeed in their respective work, artistic or sports fields, trying by all means that their children perpetuate their achievements and maintain a dynasty that consolidates their economic empire, or the family artistic saga or they shine in the sports like his father did.
We all know cases of children, who feel overwhelmed by this tremendous pressure that falls on them: children of famous surgeons, wealthy businessmen, famous singers or acclaimed athletes.
On many occasions these children cannot handle the burden of demand and simply refuse to try. The responsibility is so great and the bar they inherit is so high, that they directly take another path, against parental opinions, causing serious discussions.
Children of failed parents.
The other side of the coin is presented by many parents, apparently normal, but who are deeply frustrated. They are parents who failed in something that was very important to them. Now they see in their children an opportunity to make amends for their failure.
So we see parents, whose soccer career was frustrated, sign their children up to soccer fry teams.
These parents experience their child’s successes “in the plural” :
“Today we play against Leganés.”
“Yesterday we scored five goals.”
As long as the child enjoys the game or the imposed sport, the situation is safe. The bad thing is when the child gets tired and the father demands that he continue. “We are not going to give up now, after so many sacrifices as we have done.” Again the plural.
Every year, there are hundreds of children who crash in the selective tests of the great teams, Real Madrid or Barcelona, in their attempt to enter the youth categories. Some will live it normally and even with satisfaction from taking a load off their shoulders.
For many others, it can be a cruel disappointment, for having internalized parental demands, for having assumed excessive dreams and now find themselves with their self-esteem on the ground.
I have given the example of child soccer players, perhaps because they are the most numerous, but the same is applicable to musicians, lawyers, doctors, etc.
The child must live his life, create his goals, his aspirations and his dreams. It is important to set realistic goals. Parents must enjoy playing with him.
They must encourage him to be autonomous and responsible . They must respect your tastes, and not create unfounded expectations, which can only lead to bitter disappointments.
Very demanding children.
We cannot forget at any time that children come with an important genetic load. It is not uncommon to hear a parent comment that their children are completely different, despite having received the same education.
Some children, either because their genes predispose them to it, or because they have lived in a demanding environment at home, set very high goals, sometimes too high.
They are children who are obsessed with grades at school. For them the important thing is not to pass or get good grades. The important thing is to be the best.
We all know a kid who comes home half crying because he got a nine, but another boy in his class got a ten.
For them the important thing is the triumph, is to be number one. They are children who do not have classmates, they have rivals, sometimes even enemies.
It is the mission of the parents, before the appearance of these signs of competitiveness, to try to mold the character of the child.
It must teach him to value his work and his successes , not to compare himself with others. They should teach him to see his friends in his classmates, not his rivals.
They should promote their self-esteem, praise their work and not make global disqualifications when it fails.
The child must know that his parents value his effort and that for them he will always be the best.
When this competitive attitude is maintained and perpetuated over time, sooner or later he will end up finding someone who will be better than him and that can be the beginning of a long and painful suffering.
A celebrated commentator once said in reference to the celebrated chess player Bobby Fischer , that there were three kinds of players:
- Those who played to pass the time and did not care to win or lose.
- Those who played to win and got angry if they lost.
- Then there was another very select group, which included the young American genius. This last group was formed by the ” killers “. These were players who not only sought victory, but the humiliation and annihilation of the opponent.
Each game was a brutal show of force that “destroyed” the opponent. This group of players have a great psychological weakness.
When the “killers” lose a game, they experience it like the scorpion that sticks its own stinger when it is cornered. For them, a defeat is devastating, not only at the game level but also at the psychological level.
It is the parents’ task to prevent their children, who show symptoms of excess competitiveness, from channeling their aggressiveness in a healthy way , to prevent them from becoming a “killer” because otherwise, they will end up finding a competitor superior to them, who It will make the stinger stick and it will destroy them psychologically.
How to choose the most suitable option for our children?
Study of interests and temperament.
As we have already seen, many parents choose the activities to be able to square their schedule, selecting those that, by schedule, can be best for them.
However, experts indicate that it is very important that the children themselves decide among a wide variety of available offers .
In the same way that we choose what to do in our leisure time, we are talking about relaxing moments for them, so the activities must be adapted to their needs.
Likewise, temperament should also be evaluated. We can find children situated at both extremes: on the one hand we have those who are very active and calm, while others seem to have infinite energy and never stop.
Considering that no two children are alike, you will have to choose the type of activity that best suits you.
For example, if we are thinking of enrolling our son in theater classes because we did it when we were little, it is possible that the experience seems fantastic from the first moment, but that he does not like it and prefers to do something else eventually.
Beware of oversaturation!
Oversaturation, stress, and anxiety have never been good companions for doing anything, especially when dealing with children. As we adults do, children also need to rest from their school day and day.
They need to have time to spend with their friends, to be able to do their homework quietly, to talk with their parents or even to be able to get bored (there are some studies that assure that the simple fact of being bored can be very positive for the evolution of their mind, as it helps them to be much more creative).
That is why it is recommended that, at least, they have a couple of days without any extracurricular activity.
Do not force them.
Our goal should be to try to find a compromise between encouraging him to continue with the activity and determining when it is not worth continuing to attend. The best strategy at this point is to take him to give the odd class for a few days; We do not have to throw in the towel at the first change, but it is not a matter of continually wearing it.
We should try to find the best way to motivate them to continue with the experience; If it does not convince them, we can always try another.
Pay special attention to the symptoms.
If our child is very overwhelmed with a stressful schedule, most likely before he tells us something, a series of symptoms will appear that we should evaluate.
For example, in the event that we see that he presents some symptoms such as fatigue, nervousness or decay, sleep disturbances , this is probably the indication that he is telling us that the child cannot cope with everything, since they are clear symptoms of childhood stress .
If you have any doubts, we should relax your agenda. If the symptoms persist, it would be good for the child to be evaluated by a psychologist (or in your city) just in case we are talking about another type of disorder.
If the symptoms become chronic, they can profoundly alter the child’s life and lead to a depressive disorder .
Choose the right place.
It is also very important that we know where we are going to take our children. Basically we have three options: either opt for the extracurricular activities that they can carry out in the school in which they study (after hours), or the option offered by the municipalities, or some private centers.
Before registering so that they can participate in one of these activities, we recommend that you go meet the person who is in charge of managing everything; You should also investigate if she is really able to do the activities, as well as the psychological approach that you want to achieve with the activity.
All these details are key when deciding on one or another extracurricular activity.
Learning + fun.
Yes! We want our children to learn, but we must not forget that they have to enjoy at the same time.
The extracurricular activities they take should motivate them, they have to feel comfortable with them and have the feeling that they are progressing. This way they will be able to experience the feeling of accomplishment that will allow them to face the challenges that are presented to them for the future.
It is also convenient to understand that it is our children who are really going to do the activity, it is not us. We must forget about those old projects that we never managed to make a reality and think that it is his life.
Extracurricular activities for reinforcement?
The truth is that children already spend many hours at school and when they get home they will surely have a lot of homework to do. Experts do not recommend following these reinforcement activities unless absolutely necessary.
In conclusion, both parents and teachers should make an effort to improve the agenda of young people, rationalize the content and ensure that they have time for play, for rest, even to be able to get bored.
Remember that excessive responsibility can lower the self-esteem of children, if they do not achieve the goals that we have imposed on them.
Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.