And that means (brace yourself) school is right around the corner. Feel free to cheer or cringe or both!
However you may feel about the coming close of summer, prepare yourself, because along with school comes a host of decisions to be made about extra-curricular activities.
If we don’t stop and think about them for even five minutes, we moms soon find ourselves agreeing to a myriad of obligations that drain ourselves, our budgets, and our kids, sometimes for the sole reason that our daughter’s friends are “all” doing the same routine of exhausting activities.
But then again, should we become nay-sayers to every opportunity that comes along, we’ll find our daughters frustrated, bored, and perhaps missing out on some great possibilities.
How can we find some middle ground? How can we develop our daughter’s interests and talents while staying sane and teaching them life balance?
Here are five questions to ask yourself, your husband, and your daughter as you decide what extra-curriculars to get involved in this upcoming school year.
1. Do we have the resources for this activity?
Take a few minutes to calculate what kind of time commitment this activity (or combination of several activities) will require. Does it fit into your life? Will it mess up naptime for young children, family dinnertime, a reasonable bedtime? Can your family function well as you come and go from this extra-curricular?
Also, what kind of money is involved? Are there hidden costs? Trips? Meals? Uniforms? Shoes? Instruments? Figure out if your budget can handle this expense along with the regular expenses of the school year.
2. Is this activity building skills in my daughter’s life or just filling time?
Maybe your daughter needs to explore her talents. If this is something she’s really interested in learning, great! If she already shows signs of possessing this ability and wants to develop it further, even better! But if this activity is just a time-filler, think twice about signing up. There may be better ways for her and you to use your energy.
3. What kind of people will influence my daughter?
Consider the reputation of the coach/teacher/leader. Will they be emphasizing good values, attitudes, and principles as they lead your daughter? Also, consider the peers surrounding your daughter in this activity. Do they have a reputation for decent conversation and attitudes? What is the general tone in this group?
As you evaluate the atmosphere of each activity, also ask yourself how well your daughter does in that kind of setting. Is she competitive? A leader? A follower? Easily discouraged?
This may be one of the biggest factors in your decision-making, since your job as a mom is to be the gateway, deciding who and what pours into the life of your child.
4. What are we giving up for this activity?
Are you forfeiting much-needed rest? Sanity? Family time? Church? Or are you exchanging boredom, laziness, and time that would have otherwise been wasted? Every decision you make embraces one thing while letting go of another.
5. How does my daughter thrive?
Think about what’s truly best for your daughter overall. Is she an introvert? Does she need more alone time to recharge? Does she need space and quiet in order to produce her best school work, attitudes, and develop her walk with God? Or is your daughter more extroverted, needing lots of interaction with others to stimulate her intellectually, emotionally, and even spiritually?
What does the big picture look like for your daughter? Even if she loves socializing and plenty of activity, does this year hold more challenging academics? Does she need to be held back from excessive activity because of particular challenges your family is going through? On the other hand, if your daughter is extremely introverted, does she need a moderate amount of pushing to reach out and make friends and develop skills?
After considering these five areas (and maybe a few extra areas of your own), have a conversation with your husband and your daughter.
Ask for their input. Ask your daughter to prioritize the activities she loves the most. Let her know that saying “no” is an important life skill. Everyone has to learn their personal limits.
Lastly, pray together for wisdom.
Ask God for guidance in your extra-curricular activities. He wants to protect you from exhaustion this year, and He also very likely wants to use you and your daughter in the lives of others as He grows and develops each of you.
He alone knows what is truly best for you, so seek Him, and have a wonderful year of rest and activity!
by Jennifer Ebenhack