Extra-curricular activities like sports and art classes are important for kids. They promote skill development, socialization, regulating energy levels, and physical health. But, when you’re trying to set up your kids’ after school schedule, there’s a reason not to lump therapy in with art and sports. It’s in its own category.
Let’s talk about how it is different.
What your kid is working on in therapy might be at the root of what will help them be successful in their extra-curricular activities
For example, if your child is struggling with anxiety (regular anxiety, performance anxiety or social anxiety), being in extracurricular activities is going to exacerbate the issue if they are not learning the skills to be with and overcome the anxiety that comes up in those after school activities.
“While goal oriented activities can help a child develop certain skills, when those skills are scrutinized by parents, coaches or teachers, it can lead to self esteem issues, stress, and anxiety. This is especially true around the age of 12 when kids start to compare themselves to their peers in the formation of identity and self concept.” (Wijkstrom, Stephanie. “Signs Your Child Is Involved in Too Many Extracurricular Activities.” Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburg. October 5, 2022. www.counselingwellnesspgh.com/signs-your-child-is-involved-in-too-many-extracurricular-activities/)
While most extracurricular activities are fun and kids are excited about participating in them, they can still trigger stress, big feelings or overwhelm for a kid. If they are already working on identifying the emotions associated with their general anxieties and developing coping skills to address them, then they can apply them in all areas of their life whether it be family, school, friends or even extracurricular activities. This can help them get more out of those activities and find a sport or activity that they can thrive in.
Consistency is important
We see parents pull kids from therapy thinking that the child doesn’t care. Kids might not always tell you that they do, because they want to please you or might not be fully aware of what’s happening in therapy. If you want therapy to be a safe place for your kid to work through things, you have to make sure it’s reliably available.
Therapy can be hard for kids because their therapist will push them to help them grow. If it’s intermittently available, your kid won’t open up enough to get the support they need. Consistency allows them to develop trust and build a relationship with their therapist.
“The key here is being consistent; if you want change, you must be consistent. Consistency essentially means sticking to the plan and not skipping (or over-doing) something.” (Barbash, Elyssa. “STOP CANCELING YOUR THERAPY APPOINTMENTS! – THAT IS, IF YOU WANT REAL CHANGE IN YOUR LIFE.” Tampa Therapy. June 4, 2017. www.tampatherapy.com/2017/06/04/12338/)
Feeling stressed or overwhelmed is a reason to go to a session, not cancel it
This happens a lot: people don’t think they have time for therapy or they don’t feel like going. This is the best time to go. Where else in life can you take a pause from the outside world to reflect, be seen and gather yourself? There are no distractions. Sometimes it’s the exact thing you need, especially when you don’t feel like it.
If you act like it isn’t a big deal to cancel appointments because something else comes up or because you want to use that time to get other things checked off your to-do list, then you are showing your kid that therapy is not a priority. Talk with them about the benefits of therapy and how important it is to keep it up, even when it feels hard or when it doesn’t feel like you have time for it.
Modeling this behavior in your own life as a parent, and prioritizing your own mental health and self-care, is another way you can emphasize the importance of sticking with it.
It’s true, therapy is an ‘extra’ event that you have to factor into your schedule, however, it’s very different from a typical extracurricular activity. It’s not a luxury or something to be used as a reward; it may be a necessity for your kid’s mental and emotional well-being. (Barbash, Elyssa. “GETTING AWAY FROM THE “THERAPY IS A LUXURY” MENTALITY.” Tampa Therapy. April 25, 2017. www.tampatherapy.com/2017/04/25/getting-away-from-the-therapy-is-a-luxury-mentality/)
If you have questions or need help planning and/or prioritizing therapy for your kid or yourself, contact us.