Many parents place a great deal of pressure on their teens to become involved in an impressive array of extracurricular activities. They do this because it is always an advantage to list a number of these when making college applications. I like to think that extracurricular activities should be taken for the pleasure and benefits they offer right now and let the future take care of itself. If teens engage in something they enjoy they will be happier and healthier and that should influence their desirability for particular colleges. Spare time is also important for teenagers and humans in general. It is how we refuel.
There is a certain fiendish cult afoot that believes that life should be a mass of frantic doing and no being. Teens are often transported from one extracurricular activity to the next in a whirling blur of excess and the misguided belief that they will become better people. Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against extracurricular activities. I do, however, believe in moderation in all things and balance along with it. Our world sometimes appears to be speeding towards some goal out front somewhere while we frantically try to keep pace, rushing from pillar to post, and wondering where on earth peace went. Teens are like adults, they need time out. We may not call it peace, the things they do to relax, but they need to do them. The bottom line is choosing extracurricular activities so that they enhance quality of life and don’t dominate it.
If your child is sports crazy you may have to be the one preaching moderation. School is still a priority and then there are the dear little gaps that need to stay empty for soul refueling. Some parents may find they have to kick a recumbent teen off the couch and outdoors to get fresh air and exercise. Other parents will have to slow their over enthusiastic teen down to a pace that won’t cause burn out. Whatever it takes, you are still the parent and as such you need to moderate your teens extracurricular activities so that they are beneficial. You will also need to see your teen on a regular basis so extracurricular routines that monopolize your child on an ongoing basis should be discouraged. Balance is the watchword. If your child cannot think beyond sport try to encourage him or her to consider other forms of participating in group activities.
Sport is always beneficial because it teaches teens life techniques like fair play and how to work as a team. But is not the only form of activity that edifies. Some children belong to volunteer organizations that take them right out of themselves and into a bigger reality that teaches them about a world larger and more diverse than their own. These extracurricular activities are good for the heart and soul of the child here and now as well as when they apply to college.
Lessons learned in organized extracurricular activities like debating or school government help your child gain invaluable lessons on how the world works. They will also experience what it feels like to make a difference and this will affect the way they participate in their society in the future. Music, drama, and art are wonderful extracurricular activities that teach teens how to express themselves in ways that can be heard. Theatre courses can prove to be valuable outlets for the heightened emotions that are so much a part of the teenage experience. And then there are the extracurricular activities for teens that are pure investments in fun for fun’s sake. They are never towards the forefront so you will have to search for them. Fun is an underrated stimulus for creative growth and character enhancement. Make sure that your teen has a regular dose of it.