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Oregon Family Magazine

Extracurricular Activities

08/31/2022 ● By Rebecca Hastings
We all know life changed drastically when the pandemic entered the picture. From online schooling to making decisions about how we spend our time, life as we knew it was turned upside down. Now that we are finding our way through these changes, understanding what kids need is essential.

Why? The American Psychological Association reports a 24-31% increase in mental health-related emergency room visits in kids and teens in 2020. Kids are struggling and a great way to help is with extracurricular activities. Choosing what is right for each child and family, and resisting the urge to overschedule, extracurricular activities are more important now than ever.

6 Ways Extracurricular Help Kids

1.     They are an outlet. Whether a team sport or learning a new form of art, these activities allow the chance for less structured experiences from typical school/home life. The ability to create or interact also helps kids get their feelings, frustrations, and fears out in a productive, safe way.

2.     Promotes interaction. Taking a creative class or joining a team helps kids interact in a fun way, and also promoted positive relationships. In a world where time with other people all but came to a halt, kids need to learn how to reconnect again. Common interests and goals provide a safe, lightly structured format for these interactions.

3.     Provide direction. It has been two years of unknowns for all of us, including kids. While they’ve been incredibly resilient and proven they can roll with so many changes, re-entry isn’t easy for every child. An enrichment club or a recreational sport can provide some direction and stability in a world that has lacked both. A simple once-a-week activity on the calendar is something kids can look forward to.

4.     Give an escape. While it’s important to talk about our problems, sometimes we need a break from daily struggles. Even as adults we understand the value of a good walk or a cup of coffee with a friend. Extracurricular activities give kids a break from thinking about how different school is now, or how something has changed at home since the pandemic started. A healthy outlet can be a mental escape from things that feel hard.

5.     Offer fun. We can all agree the last few years could be characterized by many things, but fun hasn’t been at the top of the list. A weekly chess club or a run around the bases with the baseball team goes a long way to reinstating fun in our everyday lives. Kids need to remember, it’s not only okay to smile, laugh, and have fun with friends, but it’s essential!

6.     Help them become. Part of life is learning who we are, the things we like, and the activities that make us come alive. Exploring extracurricular activities give kids a broader framework for discovery on the journey to fully learn who they are.