No downtime for today's kids
MANILA, Philippines - A sure sign that you are going the way of floppy disks and rotary-dial telephones is when you increasingly find yourself saying things like “’Nung panahon ko (in my time),” “That’s not how we did it,” “Do you remember when” and “Minecraft? Is that like Minesweeper?”
I find myself saying these things when it comes to the popularity and variety of kids’ out-of-school activities today.
I remember a time when the concept of a “lazy afternoon” was still widely accepted. My brothers and I would spend weekends and long summer days lost in good books (after all, they are called comic “books”), engrossed in computer games that took twenty minutes to boot up from dawdling cassette tapes (that’s the truth, kids, look it up), or shooting hoops anytime we wanted (I threw that in just because you might think I was a total nerd who did nothing but read and play video games all day – which I was, but that’s another story).
Smorgasbord of activities
Today, there is societal pressure on parents to keep kids’ waking hours fully occupied, with absolutely no downtime whatsoever. On weekdays, it’s off to academic tutors after school to supplement daytime lessons. And on weekends, there’s an entire spectrum of activities to choose from.
Raising a musical prodigy? Then it’s off to voice, piano, or guitar lessons every Saturday morning. How about a modern-day Juan Luna? Then it’s art and sculpture classes. A future Kiefer Ravena or Chieffy Caligdong? There are dozens of sports camps to choose from. Or maybe you want to raise a socially conscious child. There are numerous outreach programs wherein families can volunteer together.
Your child could be the next Lisa Macuja, Lea Salonga, or Eddie Garcia. Believe me, there is a specific class or workshop available for any particular interest, guaranteed. Kids today are extremely fortunate to have such opportunities. In my time (I told you I say it more often now!), such opportunities were limited and quite expensive. But today, there is something for nearly everyone.
Are extra-curricular activities necessary?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying these are time wasters. In fact, I believe it’s progressive and highly beneficial to send kids to such classes.
And I do not necessarily subscribe to the notion that attending extra-curricular activities will create highly stressed kids (having too many might, though, but more on that later). It’s the way adults put pressure on kids that causes stress. If I were a kid again, I would love to attend basketball camp regularly. However, if my Dad put extreme pressure on me to do well enough to make the school’s varsity team lest I be labeled a failure, then that is going way overboard.
I wonder, though, when exactly extra-curricular activities started being treated as absolute requirements. What may have started out as a yearning to tap our children’s genuine potential has turned into a virtual necessity for every kid on the block. Whether borne of a perceived need to be “in,” of an envious comparison versus other parents’ “successful” kids, or of what is seen as a distinct advantage to get into a good university, there is a potential danger in putting kids through such activities for the wrong reasons. Which makes it all the more important to always be alert, discerning parents when it comes to doing what’s right for our children.
As the cliché goes, too much of anything – no matter how good – can be harmful (except when it comes to sugar-glazed doughnuts…oops, did I say that out loud?). As parents, we are in the best position to:
Gauge what our kids’ talents and interests are (don’t forget to talk to them about this too).
Determine when our kids are involved in either unsuitable activities or too many things.
And define the right balance between school, supplementary activities, rest periods, and, not to be forgotten, essential family time (which should be first priority).
Extra-curricular activities provide kids with wonderful opportunities outside school to learn different skills and enhance physical or emotional development. These could also lead to more confident, sociable children who, in turn, will make positive contributions to society.
As parents, let us be prudent in our choices and remain vigilant about our priorities. Let us hope our children enjoy these out-of-school activities for the right reasons. Finally, let us also hope the entire family shares a happy and loving home because of these activities, not in spite of them.
Watch a video on how to manage kids' busy schedules:
About the author
There is the helicopter parent, the negligent parent, and then there’s Michael Gohu Yu, a doting father one minute who transforms into Homer Simpson the next. His writing on parenting reflects themes ranging from the humorous to the heartwarming. Whichever the case, though, he always aims to entertain parents of all ages.
Tired schoolboy photo by Pressmaster from Shutterstock