I still vividly recall the day that I forced my shy and quite frankly petrified 3-year-old to attend a Wednesday morning ballet class trial. As she trembled and quaked in her tutu, she begged me not to make her go, yet I was determined. I was determined because, reader, it was a Wednesday morning. This is the day when here in Switzerland, there is no school. It is therefore the day when children up and down the country are ferried to judo, swimming lessons, Lego club, basketball, gym, music class, ice skating lessons, drama, football and of course not forgetting, ballet.
I am now further down the line on my parenting journey and have somewhat changed my views on what my children should be doing on Wednesdays, and indeed after school and at weekends.
Choosing Extra-Curricular groups
Back then, I jumped on the extra-curricular band wagon without actually taking any time to question why I wanted my daughter to do ballet. If I’d have given it a bit more thought, I would have realised that there was no reason for a 3-year-old with an actual clear dislike for ballet to attend a ballet class. It might seem obvious now, but my blinkers were on. Everyone else’s kids were doing ballet, and what else were we going to do? Just lounge around at home in our pyjamas. (spoiler alert – we now spend Wednesday mornings lounging around at home in our pyjamas….)
A friend of mine realised that she might be over doing extra-curricular when she admitted her children had no free evenings to come around for dinner. Another friend’s reality check moment came the day she received her extra-curricular bills all in one go and realised she could have put down a deposit on a house with what she had spent.
Extra-Curricular Activities creating strain?
I promise, I’m not here to tell you that extra-curricular activities are a bad idea. Indeed, when chosen with your child’s interests in mind and modified in their frequency, they can be very enriching for both the children, and the parent.
However, I can’t say that I was surprised to stumble upon a report published in the Sport, Education and Society journal, the findings of which suggest that too many organised activities for our children can place unprecedented strain on families. In fact, the report goes as far as to say that too many activities can harm their development and well-being.
Now of course, we need to maintain some perspective here. A bit of tennis here and there isn’t going to do any harm, but I am suggesting that we look at our schedules and ask ourselves whether we couldn’t perhaps benefit from a bit more unstructured time. The WEF recently released a short video reminding parents of the essential life skills that children learn during free play and urging them to schedule less.
Of course, I’m aware that for many working families there just isn’t the luxury of pyjama mornings. Let’s be honest, our Wednesdays at home are certainly not always happy families. However, I would urge myself to listen to my daughter and be guided a little more by her.
As with all things parenting however, a big part of the challenge is getting that fine balance. Being guided by your child is not the same as letting them dictate everything. There are of course times when our children need a little nudge in the right direction. So, while ballet is still firmly off the cards, we have started gently encouraging skiing and swimming lessons. So far so good, but we definitely don’t have an extra-curricular fan on our hands….. it’s a learning process for us all, and when my son reaches extra-curricular age, I’ll be mindful of what I’ve learnt. Who knows, maybe he’ll become the ballet star of our family?
Liz is originally from the U.K and has been living in Switzerland for 10 years. She combines her role as a Client Manager for TutorsPlus with her teaching and writing work. That’s not forgetting the biggest job of all. Parenting her 2 young energetic children.
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