Find­ing bal­ance with ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - EDUCATION - Ar­ti­cle cour­tesy of MetroCreative

Many high schools, col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties em­pha­size their goals of pro­duc­ing well-rounded stu­dents. Ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties teach stu­dents im­por­tant life lessons, pro­vide them op­por­tu­ni­ties to so­cial­ize and of­ten stim­u­late their minds and bod­ies in ways that dif­fer from the stim­u­la­tion pro­vided in the class­room.

Data from the U.S. Cen­sus Bu­reau states that, in 2014, 57 per­cent of chil­dren be­tween the ages of 6 and 17 par­tic­i­pated in at least one af­ter­school ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­ity. Chil­dren are more likely to par­tic­i­pate in sports than clubs or lessons, such as mu­sic, dance and lan­guage, but each of these ac­tiv­i­ties can be ben­e­fi­cial to stu­dents’ de­vel­op­ment.

Stu­dents who par­tic­i­pate in ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties may want to limit their par­tic­i­pa­tion to 20 hours per week. This is ac­cord­ing to a group of pro­fes­sors from Stan­ford Univer­sity and Vil­lanova Univer­sity who have been col­lect­ing data on the is­sue since 2007. In their re­port “Ex­tracur­ric­u­lar Ac­tiv­ity in High-Per­form­ing School Con­texts: Stress Buster, Booster or Buf­fer?”, Jerusha Con­ner and Sarah Miles found that 87 per­cent of kids who would be con­sid­ered to have packed sched­ules were per­fectly happy un­less they were do­ing more than four hours a day.

The “over-sched­ul­ing hy­poth­e­sis” may be over­hyped. This is the con­cern that too much or­ga­nized ac­tiv­ity par­tic­i­pa­tion leads to poor de­vel­op­men­tal out­comes. This hy­poth­e­sis also sug­gests that hec­tic sched­ules also un­der­mine fam­ily func­tion­ing, de­tract from school­work and pos­si­bly in­crease the risk of copy­cat be­hav­iors and ex­ces­sive com­pet­i­tive­ness. How­ever, in the study “The OverSchedul­ing Hy­poth­e­sis Re­vis­ited: In­ten­sity of Or­ga­nized Ac­tiv­ity Par­tic­i­pa­tion Dur­ing Ado­les­cence and Young Adult Out­comes,” re­searchers J.L. Ma­honey and An­drea Vest de­ter­mined that, con­trol­ling for de­mo­graphic fac­tors and base­line ad­just­ment, ex­tracur­ric­u­lar in­ten­sity was a sig­nif­i­cant pre­dic­tor of pos­i­tive out­comes and un­re­lated to in­di­ca­tors of prob­lem­atic ad­just­ment (e.g., psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tress, sub­stance use, an­ti­so­cial be­hav­ior) at young adult­hood.

Even though ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties are largely pos­i­tive — even when sched­ules are packed — par­ents need to be aware of the di­min­ish­ing re­turns of too many ac­tiv­i­ties. This is some­thing called the “thresh­old ef­fect.” Ben­e­fits from ex­tracur­ric­u­lars can level off when too many ac­tiv­i­ties are be­ing jug­gled. If a child is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing anx­i­ety, sleep­less­ness or de­pres­sion, or seems overly stressed, it could be time to re­duce stu­dents’ time spent do­ing struc­tured ac­tiv­i­ties.

It’s es­sen­tial that fam­i­lies use the cues given by kids to as­sess what stu­dents can han­dle. And chil­dren should be en­cour­aged to be hon­est with their par­ents about their ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties as well.


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