Families with children are becoming increasingly busy, with many schedules filling up with play dates, swimming lessons, and weekend language classes. While it is fantastic that you are giving your child ample opportunities to explore their interests, it is equally important to consider your child’s mental and physical health.
A UK study, published in the Sport, Education and Society Journal, found that there is a negative correlation between excessive extracurricular activities that ‘dominate’ family life and child development. While we have the best intentions and want our children to have a head start in life, our children often need quality family time over excessive extracurricular activities. Children shouldn’t have to endure an unnecessarily busy schedule, and their mental health should always take priority.
There are many ways we can help support children’s wellbeing starting with educating your child about varying emotions and how to identify them. Children can develop resilience is by learning to manage their emotions. This can be done by teaching them to recognise how different emotions make them act, and finding ways to manage their feelings in a healthy way. To encourage your child to understand and manage their emotions, you can do the following:
- Play an ‘emotions game’ and act out emotions with them such as excited, sad, or happy.
- Teach your child ways to calm down from strong emotions like counting to 10 or taking five deep breaths.
- Talk about the emotions that characters in books, TV shows or movies might be experiencing. For example, ‘Look at ___, she looks sad on this page. Why do you think she is sad?”
Other ways to help them feel safe and secure, include relationship building through quality time or physical attention including hugs! Children with supportive relationships tend to become more confident and secure members of society, and healthier mental wellbeing. A good way of creating supportive environments at home is to encourage your child’s resilience, independence, and decision making by allowing them to make choices and respecting their decisions. These choices can include what they want to wear to preschool, what their afternoon snack is, or what book they would like to read.
While there is no right or wrong number of extracurricular activities to do, make sure that you check in with your children to ensure their voices are heard. This will ensure that their extracurricular activities continue to positively fill their souls, and minimise potential stress or overwhelm. For other ways to benefit your child’s wellbeing, speak to and collaborate with your child’s educators and support system.