Kids -- and parents -- are often on the go from the moment they wake up. As a parent, you may tolerate your child’s exhausting extracurricular activity schedule to provide him with the opportunity to explore a hobby and develop life skills. While extracurricular activities can definitely be a positive way for your kid to become a talented musician or athlete, they can also seriously detract from the quality of his childhood.
Why Kids Have Extracurricular Activities
Some reasons parents put their kids in activities include the desire to develop the kids' inborn talents and help them become well-rounded adults. Their chances to compete at high levels and to earn non-academic scholarships are diminished without extracurricular activities. Children learn teamwork, self-discipline and social skills, as well as how to respect authority, have fun, make friends and become leaders. However, your child also can learn these skills, have fun and become well-rounded by playing after school, as children are meant to do.
Academic Performance May Suffer
One of the pitfalls of too many extracurricular activities is that your child’s grades can begin to fall, according to clinical psychologist Tom Ferraro, Ph.D. When time for sleep and homework is reduced, it is almost inevitable that schoolwork quality declines. While your child is in school, maintaining focus on grades is his most important job. If extracurricular activities begin to take over his life, he could even risk not graduating from high school.
Loss of Downtime
Just like you, your child needs time to himself to relax. If he becomes overly excited about a particular extracurricular activity, he could become addicted to it. He loses his downtime and his chance to recharge. Additionally, the financial cost of participating in high-level competitions can drain your bank account.
Ferraro also points out that children who have too many extracurricular activities may end up with physical ailments as a result. Some these can include physical injury -- say, if your child is too tired in gymnastics practice and completes a stretch or flip incorrectly -- sickness and fatigue. Stress from high expectations from himself, you, coaches, friends, the competition and teachers can also lead to other health concerns.
Finding a Balance
If you still want to put your kid in an extracurricular activity, find a balance between it, school and time for the family and relaxation. Six to nine hours a week for an extracurricular activity is plenty, says Joan Bergstrom, the author of "School’s Out: Resources for Your Child’s Time." A study by Jennifer Fredricks, associate director of human development at Connecticut College, found that, of the 10,000 15- and 16-year-old U.S. children who participated, those who had extracurricular activities that accounted for between one to 13 hours per week of their time actually showed some positive academic effects. However, academic improvement was not present when students were involved for more than 17 hours per week. Those who participated in 10 extracurricular activities each week scored 4 percent lower on their grade average than other children and performed worse than peers who did not participate in extracurricular activities.