Archive for Thursday, August 26, 2010

Choosing back-to-school activities

August 26, 2010

Back-to-school days can be hectic, but a lot like shopping in a candy store with money in your pocket, it's tempting to choose one of everything.

Doing so, however, probably isn't in anyone's best interest. School enrollment and back to school nights offer opportunities to choose a variety of activities, yet peer pressure and the desire to provide a child options his or her parents didn't have may push the parent to make choices that may not be in the best interests of the child or the family, says Charlotte Shoup Olsen, Kansas State University Research and Extension family systems specialist.

“The family also must be a priority,” said Olsen, who explained that families who try to balance work, school and community are likely to fare the best.

Families need to look at the big picture before making any additional commitments. Back to school time is a good time for parents to sit down with their children and weigh the advantages and disadvantages various activities will provide.

Using a selection process is an opportunity to help children learn decision-making skills. Think about all contributing circumstances while deciding on what activities to pursue, such as:

• What is a child's age?

• Does he or she seem to be able to handle the expectations in the classroom?

• What are his or her interests in (and out of) the classroom?

• What benefits and opportunities will an activity provide?

• What are the requirements for participating in the activity? When and where does it meet?

• Is transportation available?

• What is the cost to participate? Does that include extras, such as buying a blue blazer for a singing group or attending away games?

• Why does the child want to participate in this particular activity?

• Is this a short- or long-term commitment?

• If a child could choose only one activity, which would it be?

It's helpful if both parents are on the same page in asking a child to consider the negatives and the positives to help whittle down the list of choices. The size of the family and the ages of the children will be factors in choosing what the family can, and can't, do. While it's natural for parents to want their child to be successful, pushing a child to overextend him or herself may not leave time for the child to learn and grow in any area, Olsen said.

Youth development activities should allow time for youth to develop, said Olsen, who reminded parents to also "be intentional" in scheduling time for family. Family time might include going for a walk or a bike ride, taking part in a community event, volunteering as a family, setting aside family game night or fixing waffles for a leisurely Sunday supper.

"It's important for everyone to relax and have downtime,” Olsen said. "Children need to see their parents and family together as a unit. Doing so strengthens the family and each of its members.”

— Diane Sullivan is an extension agent for the Leavenworth County Extension Office. For more information, visit the Leavenworth County Extension Office at 613 Holiday Plaza, Lansing, KS 66043, call the office at (913)364-5700, or visit


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