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extracurricular activities

New clothes, new shoes, new backpack, notebooks, paper, pencils, pens, and those costly extra-curricular activities. Youth football starts at $400.00 and cheerleading even more. If not enrolled in private lessons at the age of five, a child might be left out of any opportunity to play a favorite sport. Private lessons and community sports give those who can afford it an advantage, especially when it comes to tryouts. Making the team is just the beginning however. Costs for football, basketball, tennis, gymnastics, martial arts, cheerleading, swimming, and soccer are up 20-25%. Renting or buying instruments, paying for music lessons, voice lessons, dance lessons, trips, and recitals makes the arts a financial investment equal to and often greater than that of sports. Today parents often work two and three jobs giving their child the same opportunities their peers have – opportunities they can’t afford.

Team sports build character and develop physical skills; the arts, specifically music, improves academic skills and hones discipline and patience. “A survey of more than 50,000 high school students published in the Journal of School Health found students who participated in extra-curricular activities had higher levels of social, emotional, and healthy behavior than students who did not participate.” Studies show students involved in sports experience improved mental health and well-being, lower odds of substance abuse, are less prone to give in to peer-pressure and experience less emotional stress. Knowing this, how do you say “no”? How do you explain they must drop out or choose something more cost effective?

Denying an extra-curricular activity, particularly one a child is good at, can lead to decreased creativity, a lack of imagination, low self-esteem, moodiness, and unhappiness. A child saying “they understand” doesn’t regress the underlying emotional stress he/she might be feeling. Even empowered children will hold back when family finances come into play. The counselors and therapists of Improving Lives Counseling Services can help. If “no” triggers an explosion, an ongoing testing of limits, an uncommon quiet retreat or a lengthy flight, that “no” is affecting self-concept, self-perception, and self-esteem. Issues related to self-esteem strongly affect children, adolescents, and teens – effects often carried into adulthood. Studies show saying “can’t afford it” conveys negativity and passivity – casting the parent and the child as society’s victims.

In addition to an investment of time and money, extra-curricular activities require encouraging, nurturing, and constant parenting. Children become over-scheduled, bored, and unhappy with an activity. They may want to quit something they are good at to do what friends are doing. Parents often direct their children toward activities they enjoyed or excelled in. Many Olympians have parents who were also Olympians or who participated in an Olympic sport. Forcing a child into an activity can be just as harmful as denying a child the opportunity to do something they love.

A family discussion around extra-curricular activities can be a challenging one. Choosing activities that will be fun and constructive can be overwhelming. Parents, step-parents, teachers, and coaches might disagree with one another and with a child longing to make a dream come true or one who prefers a computer screen and self-sufficiency. Let us help.

Extra-curricular activities are important to the physical, mental, and social development of a child. Improving Lives Counseling Services offers individual, couples, family, and group sessions. We have ten locations, offer Online Video Counseling, and accept most insurances and SoonerCare and Medicaid. School is starting and decisions are being made. Live the life you and your family were meant to live. Call us today.