We all know life changed drastically when the recent 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. While we do need to proceed carefully, choosing what is right for each child and family and resisting the urge to overschedule extracurricular activities are more important now than ever.

Six Ways Extracurricular Activities Help Kids Today

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

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

  3. Extracurricular activities provide direction. It has been two years of unknowns for all of us, including kids. While they have been incredibly resilient and proven they can roll with so many changes, reentry isn’t easy for every child. An enrichment club or a recreational sport can give them some direction and stability in a world that has lacked both. Even a simple once-a-week activity on the calendar is something kids can look forward to as proof that their world isn’t turned upside down.

  4. Extracurricular activities give an escape. While it is important to talk about our problems, sometimes we need a break from our daily struggles. Even as adults, we know 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 or how something has changed at home since the pandemic started. A healthy outlet can be a mental escape from the things that feel hard in daily life.

  5. Extracurricular activities offer fun. We can all agree that 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 that it’s not only okay to smile, laugh and have fun with friends, but it’s also essential.

  6. Extracurricular activities help them become. Part of life is learning about 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 about themselves. When we encourage this in our kids, we have a front-row seat to them becoming more fully who they are.