Then you’ll take her to her music lesson. Then she will go to a ballet class. Tomorrow night, it’s Scouts and church choir. Meanwhile, your teenager wants to get a part-time job—but he’s already on the basketball team and in the band.
How much is too much? Beyond the regular school day, how can kids balance their desire to take part in activities with their need to study and enjoy themselves?
Here are tips on helping your children learn how to take part in the activities they enjoy . . . but still have time for studying and just growing up.
After-School Activities Can Help Students
After-school activities have many positive benefits for students. They:
· Give students a chance to have fun, earn recognition and build self-esteem.
· Develop physical, social and intellectual abilities.
· Round out their education.
· May help students be admitted to college. Many schools look at activities, as well as grades, in making decisions about which students to admit.
· Can prevent students from dropping out.
Schoolwork Comes First
School is your child’s job. Even if you believe she’s talented enough to be a world-class skater, school must come first. (And, to be honest, most children have a better chance of being hit by a meteor than of qualifying for the Olympics.)
When your child no longer has time for homework, or is so tired she can’t finish her homework without crying, she’s under too much stress. It’s time that you cut back on the activities so she can meet her primary responsibility—going to school.
Is My Child Too Involved?
How can you tell if your child is involved with too many activities? Here are some danger signs:
· His grades drop.
· She is tired all the time. She can’t seem to catch up on her sleep.
· He complains that he never has time to see his friends.
· She is involved in two or more after-school activities on a given day of the week. On days loaded with activities, your child may run out of time or energy for homework. That’s when the balance between school and activities can be upset.
· He cannot meet the basic obligations of the activity. For example, if he is taking music lessons, he does not have time to practice his instrument every day.
If your child is showing any of these danger signs, it’s time to cut back. Talk about what activities are most important. Tell her that if she does not make decisions about which activities to cut out, you will.
Tips on After-School Jobs
Nearly 75 percent of high school juniors and between 80 and 90 percent of seniors work after school at paying jobs. As a parent, it’s important to set some limits on:
· How your teen can use the money he earns. In too many cases, experts say, teens use the money they earn to finance binge buying. Expect a regular accounting of where your teen’s money is going. Require that he save a sizable amount.
· How much your teen can work. Between eight and ten hours a week is ideal. If your teen wants to work more hours, you still need to stay in control. Don’t allow a 10th grader to work more than 15 hours a week. Juniors and seniors should not work more than 20 hours. Otherwise, school work and family life suffer.
· Where your child can work. Don’t allow your teen to work alone in a store after dark, for example.
Make Sure Your Child Gets Enough Sleep
A growing number of students—especially teens—suffer from sleep deprivation. That leads to poor concentration in school and an increase in many illnesses. What can you do to help your teen avoid sleep deprivation?
· Develop a regular schedule. A child who goes to bed at 1:30 a.m. one night and 9:00 p.m. the next is likely to have more sleep problems than the one who sets a more consistent bedtime. If possible, keep your weekend schedule similar to the schedule during the week.
· Limit drinks with caffeine—especially at night.
· Discourage exercise at night, because exercise stimulates the body rather than relaxing it.
Parents’ Experience and Maturity Are Needed
With the all the activities available to students today, it’s easy for them to get so involved that they lose sight of their most important priority—getting an education. Parents have the experience and the maturity to understand that. Children do not. Children need parents’ help in balancing their activities and school work.
Students can learn some of their most important lessons from outside activities. That’s why schools sponsor so many things for children to do. But children need parents to set reasonable limits. Parents need to watch for the danger signals of over-involvement. Parents need to limit after-school jobs that offer fast spending money at a price many children cannot understand.
Learning to cope with competing activities and responsibilities is part of students’ education. But they learn those lessons best with their parents’ help.
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