How do I encourage my teenagers to do after school activities?

If you are like us, you may find that it’s like pulling teeth to get your teens to voluntarily engage in extracurriculars that encourage their after-school interests. But, don’t worry, we are here to give you some positive ways to get your teens involved.

Set a Goal

Before you start trying to get your teen participating in new activities after school, know what it is you are trying to accomplish. Maybe you want your teen to build more friendships, get more exercise, or just get out of the house, but knowing what the goal is will help you guide your child to the activities that help them get there.

Take it One Step at A Time

While you may have high hopes of your child being the star on the soccer team or leader of the chess club, anything that gets your teen away from his or her many screens (cell phone, laptop, television, etc.) and interacting with peers is a good thing. Even if your teen’s first step into after-school interests is not one you are really excited about, it’s at least a first step, and you can work on growing their involvement over time.

Work Together to Find the Right Fit

In order to get your teen invested and interested in extracurricular activities, you need to work with them to find something that works for your whole family. Be sure to take into account your teen’s interests and personalities, and balance that with your family’s schedule, finances, and existing commitments.

For ideas on activities available for your teen and the benefit of those activities, check out this site: http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/involved-school.html

Look to Your Teen’s Friends

If your teen is not too interested in trying out something on their own, speak to their friends’ parents to see what their children are involved in. Your child might be more willing to give a new activity a try if they aren’t walking in to a new setting without knowing anyone.

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Offer Support

Most teens don’t rank talking to their parents as a favorite past-time, but do your best to engage with your child to share your desires and goals for them and to listen to their concerns, anxieties, and possible objections to the plans. You should be firm about your resolve to get them more involved, but you should also be understanding of your child’s feelings and concerns.

Offer Incentives

You may have a child that has no interest in joining new activities or one that jumps right on board with the plan to get more involved but then grows tired of the new activities before long. It may help to offer your teen an incentive not only to get involved, but to finish as well; make sure it’s something your teen is really motivated by or your incentive won’t get you the results your hoping for.

Reduce Screen Time Across the Board

Many teens do not want to get involved in outside activities with their peers because they spend so much time interacting with them online, either through social media or gaming platforms. Put in place some realistic limits on the amount of screen time allowed at home so that your teen knows that, even if they don’t participate in the activities they’ve agreed to, they won’t be able to head home and spend their time online instead.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has resources to help you manage your whole family’s media consumption here: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/media/Pages/default.aspx

Make Commonsense Concessions

Your teen may have specific activities that, regardless of any coaxing or rewards, they will not participate in willingly. Whether that be team sports or individual academic activities, if you know you are fighting an uphill battle, make a concession you can both live with; you don’t push for math olympics if they are willing to give the swim team a try.

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Don’t Be Cemented in Place

Maybe your teen agreed to try out the soccer team for a season, and you think it’s been a great experience for the whole family that you cannot wait to experience again next season. Be prepared to honor your teen’s request to try out something different if your teen doesn’t share your enthusiasm for round two, especially if he or she followed through and completed an entire season without giving up.

Be Patient

While some teens may take to after school activities quickly and really enjoy them, others may take a while to find the activity that is the right fit for them. Remember to remain patient and positive while your child finds their groove, the added pressure of an annoyed and disapproving parent will not help them find it any sooner.

When They Find It, Support It

Once your teen has found something that interests them and that they enjoy, support them. It may seem like commonsense, but it’s all too easy to get in the habit of complaining about all the trips, expenses, and time extra-curricular activities involve.

In the end, getting your teen more involved in the world outside their bedroom and their cell phone may seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and a lot of patience, you can succeed. Just remember to stay positive and keep your eye on the goal. In the end, we all want our kids to be happy and healthy, and supporting them to find positive ways to spend their after school time is all part of that overall goal.

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Dawn is an experienced classroom teacher. As a mom of four, she has learnt many ways to keep life and learning fun. One of her favorite pastimes is sharing her life's lessons with others.