Extracurricular activities are recommended for all teenagers. It helps them to develop a wide range of competencies and skills. Take sport for example. In sport they not only develop their bodies, but they stay fit, socialise and learn how to cooperate in groups or teams. Other activities such as drama, music or hobbies help to develop their talents and this builds confidence. The result is that extracurricular activities, even if they did not like them much or only take part in it for a short while, help to shape each teenager as a person.
Just keep a watchful eye for any signs of activity overload, such as constant fatigue, being short tempered and a drop in academic performance.
Many teenagers may not realise that they are taking on too much. Especially when they enjoy what they are doing, are competitive (e.g. with friends), fight for your affection (e.g. try to outdo a sibling) or try to live up to expectations (e.g. those you have stated or expectations your teenagers assume you have). It is therefore up to you to prevent extracurricular activities from placing unwanted stress on your teenagers.
One way of doing this is to have a casual heart-to-heart talk with your teenagers where you share your concerns with them. Their reaction and feedback should guide you to what kind of action to take. For example, work through their daily / weekly schedule with them. Start with listing and prioritising tasks and responsibilities. Rate them in terms of importance (e.g. time for family, homework, sport etc) and see how much time is needed for each of these items. This should include everything that can take up the time of your teenagers (e.g. travelling time to and from school, waiting for a lift and chores). Now take a week planner and for each day indicate the time for school, travelling, chores, spending time with the family and homework. See if the time for homework is sufficient, especially when your teenagers need to study hard to get acceptable marks. Once all this is done, see how much time is left for other extracurricular activities. By this time it should become obvious to your teenagers for which activities they still have time. Where there is a time shortage, let your teenagers select the one or two activities they like the most and then let them give up the rest.
Other things to consider:
- Make sure your teenagers have time to relax.
- Avoid expecting too much of your teenagers (e.g. wanting your teenagers to achieve what you did not achieve).
- Be flexible. Where your teenagers need to stop an activity now because there is not enough time for it, be willing to allow it again as soon as your teenagers can cope again.
- Make time for your family to spend time together.
- Speak to teachers when the teachers expect too much.
- Teach your teenagers how to plan, prioritise and work out flexible schedules.
- Consider stopping activities that may make your teenagers too tired to study effectively in the evening.
- See if you can get your teenagers involved in at least one sport and one mentally uplifting activity.