Every parent yearns to be the architect of their child’s future. But how much is too much?
It’s the determination to give a child every possible opportunity, with all of the support, guidance, and structure needed to succeed, that drives many parents to play that guiding role in their child’s academic and extracurricular schedule. But there are healthy limits and finding them can be critical to your student’s success.
How - and when – do children need to start choosing for themselves exactly which (and how many) activities they’ll focus their attention on?
This issue of balance is particularly important for students as they progress through their academic career toward middle school where they face particular pressure to both expand their horizons and drill down on particular skill sets.
For parents, that means not just helping your children find their footing, but also helping them find that footing for themselves. That can take patience, and a little bit of perspective and is truly key to the issue of balance.
1. Take a step back, and look at the bigger picture
The day-to-day grind of school, sports, extracurriculars, and out-of-school obligations typically does not pile up all at once. Often, it’s a slow buildup over several years, with students taking on more and more as new passions flourish and existing obligations strengthen.
But at the end of the day, the big questions should be this: how will this activity benefit my child and his/her future success? Is the time being spent on this activity making my student healthy and happy? Is this particular activity one worth expending precious time and attention on?
The answer to those questions can be tricky, but keeping students focused and fulfilled may just require a broader perspective on what’s truly important. Your child should be included in these decisions and checked with often to gauge the relevance of the activities.
2. Set aside time for non-negotiables - like homework, sleep, family time, and unstructured downtime
While it can be tempting to encourage your student to dedicate as much time as possible to academics, or sports, or extracurriculars, it’s also hugely important to remember to stay grounded in structure and schedule. For many students, that means establishing non-negotiable time commitments.
Homework, obviously, is critical to academic success. When a student is overextended, performance on homework can suffer or, as in many cases, the time spent doing homework ends up cutting into valuable sleep or family time, which can be critical to keeping students in a healthy and happy state of mind.
And as important as it is to give students a structured schedule to follow, the benefits of scheduling unstructured downtime and free time cannot be overstated. This recharge time is critical during those busy times and helps students learn how to drive their own activities and keep themselves from feeling bored when left to their own devices.
3. Let your child drive their choices
For parents eager to give their children every opportunity possible, it can be all too easy to fall into the trap of choosing each and every moment for your young learner. But, as with all children, they too will eventually fly from the nest and onto their own adventures - and it’s critical that they know how to guide themselves before they head out into the world.
Generally, students should begin driving their own activities by the time they reach middle school, when the ramp-up to high school and college really starts coming into focus. Whether it’s taking on a new after-school activity, trying out a new sport, or exploring electives in school, this self-driven direction can be immensely rewarding for students just beginning to take some agency over their day-to-day schedule.
Supporting your student’s decision to choose activities that suit their unique interests can help build confidence and teach prioritization skills that will become critical in their future.
4. Teach your child it is okay to say “no”
The pressures on modern students to excel in a wide variety of subjects is, in many ways, a noble goal. Well-rounded students should explore creativity, collaboration, communication, and cultural thinking across a broad array of subjects and activities.
But all too often this can make a student feel as though they need to take on all of the activities and that might just be a one-way ticket to feeling overworked, burn-out and anxiety.
Instead, students should be encouraged to know when to say “no” to those activities least appropriate for their workload. Adding another activity, another sport, or another club to an already heavy workload can actually end up doing more harm than good. The skill of identifying those limits is valuable and will play a critical role throughout high school and college.
5. Once committed, make sure your child is all-in
Once your children have identified which activities best fit in with their schedule, best speak to their interests, and offer the best opportunities for future success, it’s time to get down to business - and this is where parents play a key role in keeping students engaged and all-in.
Parents should drive students to stick to their choices, follow through and truly commit themselves to success in whatever they choose. It’s significantly more valuable to do a few things well than to do many things poorly, and students who commit to excellence in a few key areas stand a better chance of finding that success later in their academic and professional careers.
It’s All About Balance
As a parent, you want your student to succeed and thrive as much as possible. But it’s also true that too much pressure to succeed across a diversified spectrum can be just that - too much.
Many times, the key to helping your student find success and develop into a well-rounded, balanced individual is helping each learn when to dive headfirst into something, and when to hold off or even walk away.
By encouraging that healthy balance, you teach your children how to drive their own successes, be in the moment, make personal judgements and forge their own paths forward in the years ahead - and that can be one of the most valuable lessons of all.
World Academy is a state licensed, independent, developmentally-appropriate and academically rigorous private school for children from ages six weeks through Grade 8. Accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, it offers high quality Early Childhood Programs, Elementary and Middle School, Before and Afterschool Programs, and SummerQuest Camp. For almost 40 years the school has been dedicated to providing all students with a high-quality, 21st-century, diverse, “whole child” focused education that supports families and engages all facets of a child’s being, including cognitive/intellectual, physical, social-emotional, cultural and creative aspects.
Located at 138 Spit Brook Road in Nashua, the state-of- the-art 55,000 square-foot campus features specialized wings for Nursery, Preschool, Elementary and Middle School students; three age-appropriate playgrounds; a natural playground; two in-ground swimming pools; Gymnasium/Theater complex with a rock climbing wall; nature trails; a soccer field; an accelerated Math Program; immersive World Languages programs; Lego Robotics built into the curriculum for K-8; and much more.
Students from World Academy have consistently been accepted into their first choice schools including Groton School, Middlesex School, Lawrence Academy, Bishop Guertin High School, Central Catholic High School, Berwick Academy, The Derryfield School, and The Pike School, to name a few.
For more information, contact Samantha Wingate, Director of Admissions at 603-888-1982.