Don't feel pressured to invest in after school activities. Picture: iStock
Don't feel pressured to invest in after school activities. Picture: iStock

Too many after school activies do more harm than good

I have two very different children, in more ways than one. Apart from looking like they're not even from the same gene pool, one loves to be involved in as many team sports and activities as possible, and the other will be content sitting in front of the television for the rest of his life.

If only I could find a balance, but then again, they are who they are, and I love them both equally, so I wouldn't change a thing.

But what if too many after school activities were actually detrimental to their development? I guess I would have to re-think our current situation.

"Unprecedented strain"

According to Taylor & Francis journal, Sport, Education and Society, the pressure of too many extracurricular activities can put too much strain on families.

And you can see why that may be, with the shocking statistic that 88 percent of children participated in organised activities four to five days per week. That's a lot of after-school piano.

Now my activity-loving son doesn't seem so excessive after all ...

But before you start wondering if you're falling behind the eight-ball in terms of extra-curricular classes, take some relief in the fact the study was based in the UK, and interviewed less than 50 families across North-West England.

What harm can extracurricular activities cause?

While the research focussed on one small geographical location, the message behind it can be beneficial to parents everywhere.

Research revealed extracurricular involvement dominated family life, particularly for families with two or more children.

One of the study's participating mums commented that her children were "knackered" and often not getting to bed until nine or even 10pm. She also admitted that she was "sadly, over the moon" when something was cancelled (been there).

This is no fun in the rain. Picture: iStock
This is no fun in the rain. Picture: iStock

I can't tell you how many Thursday afternoons I've checked the weather app on my phone hoping for rain so that we could just stay at home in the warmth of the heating instead of watching soccer training.

Family time takes a hit when the kids have extra curricular activities, and we often put our children and their commitments first, meaning we miss out on those quiet times once they're in bed as we're otherwise catching up on school lunches or ironing uniforms (yes, I'm the one who irons!). Isn't it better our children are not only well-rested themselves, but have well-rested mums who aren't running around struggling to keep up with all their after school activities?

Don't feel pressured to invest in after school activities

The study's lead author, Dr Sharon Wheeler, says, "We know that parents are particularly keen to ensure their children get on in life. Parents initiate and facilitate their children's participation in organised activities as it shows that they are 'good' parents. They hope that such activities will benefit their children in both the short-term (by keeping them fit and healthy, and helping them to develop friendship groups) and longer-term (by improving their job prospects).

"However, our research highlights that the reality can be somewhat different. While children might experience some of these benefits, a busy organised activity schedule can put considerable strain on parents' resources and families' relationships, as well as potentially harm children's development and wellbeing."

So next time your soccer and hockey-playing singing child asks to take up martial arts, don't beat yourself up about saying no. Yes, extracurricular activities can be great for kids, but so is a little rest and relaxation - for them and for you!

This article originally appeared in Kidspot and has been republished with permission.

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