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by: Chantell Prestcott

Introduction:

Whether its sports, theater, fine arts, or martial arts, there is indeed no lack of extracurricular activities available for our student and children to choose from.  As parents, we know that the academic/curricular material taught at school is paramount and will have a tremendous impact on our children's future. However, the EXTRAcurricilur activities that happen in addition to school can be equally, if not more, significant.  Here are Four Extra benefits your child stands to gain from participation in extracurriculars:

 

 

 

1.) DECREASED ANXIETY 

As the competition increases for students to secure a spot in top colleges or even specialized programs that start as early as elementary school, our children's anxiety is also steadily increasing.  Anxiety is the leading mental health issue among American youth and both clinicians and research suggest it is rising. Based on data collected from the National Survey of Children's Health for ages 6 to 17, researchers found a 20 percent increase in diagnoses of anxiety between 2007 and 2012.

Diagnosis of anxiety or depression among children aged 6 to 17 years increased from 5.4% in 2003 to 8.4%in 2011–2012 and only continues to be on the rise. The need for extracurriculars' that ensure the whole-child is fostered has perhaps never been greater. Extracurricular programming has the potential to aid in decreasing anxiety and stress in students by giving opportunities to form friendships with those who have similar interests.  Which leads to our next reason:

 

2.) WIDER SOCIAL CIRCLE

We all know making and keeping friends can be hard when you are young and, although school is a great place to meet friends, the structure of the day does not always lend itself for children to explore deep or more meaningful friendships. As children and adolescents gain opportunities to make and foster relationships with those they may not attend school with, they are better able to foster meaningful connections with peers sharing similar interest.  These opportunities provide children with additional occasions to develop a better social emotional awareness of others as they adapt to various situations outside of school with an often broader range or roles and expectations. These opportunities only serve to further develop communication and friendship skills such as, conflict resolution and teamwork all while in a less stringent environment than school.

 

3.) POSITIVE ACADEMIC OUTCOMES

Although potential falling grades and academic performance are the main concern when considering extracurriculars that may take time away from studying, the opposite is, in fact, true. Students who participate in outside activities have frequently shown higher grades, test scores, school engagement, and educational aspirations. (Cooper, Valentine, Nye, & Lindsay, 1999; Eccles & Barber, 1999; Marsh & Kleitman, 2002). Extracirriculars can serve as a time to relax and to reset the brain after an arduous day of schoolwork; students also show better time management skills. Although at first thought it is easy to think that adding more to an already full schedule of homework and studying will only serve to cause academics to falter, its simply not the case.  Evidence indicates that student participation extracurricular are more likely to plan out their schedule and less likely to procrastinate during down times.  Extracurriculars can serve as a motivator for students to manage their time better in order to participate in their activity of interest.

 

4.) INCREASED SELF-ESTEEM

Finally, the most invaluable benefit of extracurricular activities is that they provide opportunities to discover new talents and explore new interests.  In turn, this allows children to see the fruits of their efforts as they invest their time into developing new skillsets.

As students find success in doing the things that are of interest to them, they build their confidence and increase the likelihood that they will continue to try thing of interest in the future.  This process holds true whether a skill came naturally or if they had to work harder at it than another student. The perseverance and resilience developed continue to increase the child's belief in their abilities and can lower the anxiety and self-doubt that many children experience in school. Extracurricular activities set the stage for learning and teach how to set goals and how to work toward them through persistence and practice. These lessons carry over and only serve to increase self-esteem in our children and set the stage for increased drive and self-confidence as they grow into adulthood.

 

Conclusion:

A 2003 study by the Journal of Adolescent Research shows the MANY benefits of extracurricular activities, including improved academic performance, relationship skills, and personal growth. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what extracurriculars that you and your child choose, but make sure to help them explore all of the opportunities that exist. Often it is easy for parents to direct their children to an interest that they are familiar with or participated in as a child. Be sure to expose them to various options and allow them the chance to try different things if they aren't already sure what they want to try. Encourage your child to commit to finishing something they try, for example: the six-week art class he wanted to try but didn’t love.  Keeping commitments and sticking to them is an important lesson to teach. But there is no need to force them to commit to that one thing just because they were curious and realized it didn't resonate with them. Continue to try things on a short-term basis if possible (like this special Six-Week Kids Krav Maga Starter Pass). Explore your options until you and your child find something they can get excited about and set some goals and stick to it.  Understand, your child might need to gain exposure to several different things before they find their niche, and that is perfectly OK! Be encouraging and supportive as you help them discover what they enjoy, which in turn will help them experience the ‘extra’ benefits above.

Chantell is a licensed School Counselor and educator of over 15 years as well as the Program Director for our separate youth program at Krav Oz. In addition to focusing on self-defense that can truly help a child in need of it, Chantell dedicates class time to focusing the whole-child through lessons aimed to strengthen the social and emotional needs of the students. 




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