Today’s student is faced with a competitive educational environment – he or she is expected to excel in academics and participate in extracurricular activities in order to be successful, particularly in high school. Too often, such expectations overwhelm the child and his or her parents, creating a stressful environment and a predictable opportunity for failure. Even colleges evaluate a student’s acceptability for enrollment and a scholarship based on how “well-rounded” he or she is. These facts present a perplexing set of problems for students, the greatest of which is to deliver good results in both areas without being overloaded.
Now, children have so many choices and opportunities for after-school activities, such as dance, music lessons, sports and school clubs, that parental guidance is imperative to managing a student’s schedule. Above all extracurricular commitments, however, is a responsibility to schoolwork which sometimes falls to procrastination or a second-level priority. Below are listed some suggestions that will help parents and students manage both the fun and the learning aspects of school:
1. Set Boundaries And Priorities That Are Realistic For Parents, Students, And The Family
* Based on a student’s academic schedule, decide which and how many extracurricular activities he or she can handle each week. Depth of an activity is more important than breadth.
* Budget for the cost of an activity. Students need to understand financial limitations. Collectively select activities with those limitations in mind.
* It is crucial to work within the parent’s schedules and commitments, too. Don’t let the student’s activities interfere too much with the rest of the family’s routine.
* Protect “family time” to ensure other children receive equal attention, and the family unit stays intact.
2. Make Homework A Precedent To Extracurricular Activities
* Establish the principle that if grades fall, activities diminish or stop. It doesn’t do the student any good to be the star football player or the head cheerleader, if he or she has failing grades.
* Help the student manage academic performance by:
* Setting aside time for study hall at home every day
* Staying in contact with the student about homework, and be there to help if necessary
* Having the child keep a “commitment journal” for schoolwork and activities. Be sure to review it periodically to prevent last minute surprises. Communicate with his or her teachers.
* Maintain a positive learning environment and a productive activity schedule without overloading the student. Parents can create undue stress by expecting too much.
3. Select Extra-Curricular Activities That Serve A Purpose For The Student
* Choose activities that will demonstrate a long-term commitment, such as academic clubs, a particular sport, dance, or music.
* Participate in diverse activities that will build character and serve well into adulthood.
* Avoid activities that interfere with study time during school or at home.
4. Position Yourself As A Support System And Referee
* Divide your time with the child equally between schoolwork and extracurricular activities. Be involved, but stay in balance.
* Foster self-confidence and self-esteem by encouraging the student to do his or her personal best without creating an overachiever who is overwhelmed with stress.
* Make sure the child has enough “me” time set aside in his or her schedule. All children need some uncommitted downtime to use as they choose.
* Establish yourself as a supporter, not a dictator. Don’t force a student to continue in an activity to suit your wants; switching to something different can be a normal part of growing up as the child learns what he or she is interested in.
* Ensure that everyone maintains proper health habits. Proper nutrition, plenty of sleep, and exercise help relieve stress and fatigue.
Balancing a student’s schoolwork load and his or her participation in extracurricular activities takes a team effort, but there is a huge payoff for everyone when the plan is successful. The suggestions above will go a long way in helping you creative a positive school and activity experience for your student.