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Topic: Managing Extracurricular Activities for Children

Question: Parents are anxious about making the right choice regarding how much activity (such as sports or clubs) their child should have outside of school during the pandemic. How can parents talk to their children about these activities and help balance all the needs of their family?

Carrie Brower-Breitwieser, Ph.D., LP, BCBA-D
Pediatric Psychologist, Pediatric Feeding Disorders Program, Director, Sanford Health

Expert's Response

I think that these kind of conversations take a little bit of art (rather than science) from families, because it all comes down to the family’s choice about what activities they will and will not engage in. My colleagues and I have been recommending that parents have a weekly “touch-base” conversation with their kids about how they’re doing. This is especially important given that things can change rapidly, so it’s good to have consistent communication between parents and children about the plans for the week.

These are things to consider when having weekly conversations with your child(ren):

  • Be structured, but also flexible. When having conversations with your kids, it’s good to be consistent, such as always being sure to talk about what the plans look like for the week and what the family’s rules are for those activities. However, since these rules may change by the week, it’s also good to stay flexible and creative in how to adapt the weekly activities to meet your family’s needs.
  • Keep communication open both ways. Make sure that your kids also have the opportunity to talk – for example, about what they would like to see for the week and what questions they have. It’s easy for parents to deliver the rules, but the more difficult part of these conversations is making sure to actively include your children. This is also a good opportunity to understand what your child is hearing from others outside of the house, and gives you a better opportunity to clarify if needed
  • Reinforce safe behaviors. Lots of parents may worry about their kids following the rules and staying safe at school and extra-curricular activities. However, there is data to suggest that children are excellent with wearing masks while at school and following other precautions, such as washing their hands and staying socially distant from others. Be sure to praise your child when they tell you about the things they are doing to stay safe outside of the house.