Advice for parents of kids who focus only on extramural activities

By Mieke Vlok
08 June 2015

What do you do when your child’s love of sport and other extramural activities overshadows their school work and they’re just too tired to give it attention?

WE all know our kids should excel at sport and other extramural activities and it’s a privilege and experience for any parent to sit on the side-lines at sporting events or in the audience watching their children play or perform.

But what do you do when your child’s love of sport and other extramural activities overshadows their school work and they’re just too tired to give it attention? We asked Christelle du Plessis, a Johannesburg educational psychologist, for advice.

Why is it important to encourage my child to take part in after-school activities?

Not only does sport teach children dedication and is good for their health, it can also teach them essential skills for their schoolwork.

“It’s a privilege when a child or teenager excels at sport,” Christelle says.

“Movement and exercise are phenomenal for a growing body, and it’s also good for young people to use their bodies in a healthy way.

“Sport can teach kids to focus, plan, organise and work with others. It also teaches them perseverance, which is necessary for academic achievement.

“It’s therefore important to carry these qualities through from sport to academics so children can build a positive relationship between sport and schoolwork.”

Christelle says parents must help their children in this regard.

Time management is important

Teach your children there is a time and place for everything, she suggests.

Help your child draw up a timetable which allocates time to activities and schoolwork. One with 30-minute timeslots works well she says.

It’s important to differentiate between sport and relaxation, she adds. “When children do exercise they’re exerting themselves and they must be given time to rest physically and emotionally afterwards.”

She suggests younger children must participate in the process of drawing up a timetable, while older children can do it themselves then go through it with their parents afterwards.

Specific subjects such as maths, science and languages must also be given specific times instead of just allocating a whole section to schoolwork.

“If parents put academics at the top of their priority list, children will follow suit, Christelle says. Therefore divide the time so schoolwork gets preference and stress that, especially during test and exam times, sport or cultural activities should only be seen as a way of relaxing, but schoolwork comes first.

Don’t overload your child

“If your child is overwhelmed by the demands put on them something is going to suffer – either schoolwork or sport.”

Warning lights should start flashing when your child starts finding excuses to avoid exercise, they withdraw from the family or complain they’re too “sick” to exercise or go to school.

Parents must not make the mistake of thinking because a child excels at sport they don’t have to achieve academically, Christelle says. “Injury and the high level of competitiveness have ruined many sportsmen and sportswomen’s dreams.”

Also bear in mind it’s a good idea to have a plan B for your child. “Professional sports people have to be able to manage themselves and be able to fall back on their academic background at the end of their careers.”

Keep your child’s age in mind and don’t make demands too excessive for that age. And communicate with your child’s coach. “If the coach expects too much of your child, you can explain to them that as parents you support your child, but also consider academic achievement important.”

Visit http://www.resilientfamily.co.za/ for more information about Christelle and her practice.

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