Extracurricular activities help people make the healthy connections that boost self-esteem — and steer them away from drug use.
Researchers call these “pro-social activities,” and several studies have shown they help youth in many ways. They find friends. They explore potential career interests. They develop the discipline required to accomplish something with excellence. They experience the joys of meeting goals. They have good, old-fashioned fun.
Here are some simple ways parents can be helpful as their children explore extra-curricular activities:
– Remember that every kid is wired uniquely. Some may be athletically inclined and like football or track. Others may prefer to doodle in a notebook as part of an art club with whom they can share and grow their talent.
Say it occasionally: “Your dreams matter.” When youth understand their aspirations are important and that they really can charts paths and take tangible steps to reach their goals, they’re more likely to reject the things that get in their way — such as addictive substances — and seek the joy that comes from earned, natural highs instead.
Check in regularly. While extracurricular activities should be fun, they also provide plenty of opportunities to learn. Believe it or not, teens really do appreciate it when their parents ask questions and demonstrate genuine interest in what they’re doing. And rather than asking questions that yield yes-or-no answers, consider asking “How?” or “Why?” to elicit more detailed responses. “When you jumped over that last hurdle on the track, how did you feel?” “How did you learn to create shadowing in your paintings so well?” “Why do you like astronomy so much? How do you think you’ll apply it to future studies?” These times of conversation are also good opportunities for parents to directly remind their children of who they are and who they want to be — and that they really can rise above the negative influences of peer groups and societal pressures.
Build on small successes. OK, so maybe the Science Club wasn’t as much fun as everyone thought it would be — but maybe one thing learned at the Science Club could be applied to the Debate Club or the History Club. And maybe basketball isn’t the preferred sport — but the warm-up exercises learned there could help improve performance on the tennis court or soccer field. Parents can help their teens stay encouraged and socially engaged by helping them see the positive things they’ve gained from their experiences — and by helping them experience satisfaction and fun of applying what they’ve learned to entirely new settings.
Build healthy relationships. Teens are almost always up for a good time with their friends. Encourage them to continue building their friendships outside of school and after-school clubs by providing them opportunities to hang out with friends who share their interests.
ASAP works on school campuses in Hancock County and invites students in grades 5-12 to join regularly scheduled meetings, where they’re encouraged to find the natural highs that come from healthy, drug-free living! ASAP leaders also help kids and teens develop the skills they need to avoid and overcome common problems associated with drug and alcohol use. We invite you to learn more about these meetings.