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Support Your Child's Interests

Essential

Notice your child's interest by paying attention to what makes her smile and laugh. What does she like to do with her peers? Are there activities she could try with a friend? Sign up for mailing lists that will send you activity calendars from your local community center, the library, or the nearest bowling alley.

You'll need to use what your child likes to do as a guide for choosing activities for him. One trap parents tend to fall into is using what they are interested in doing instead. This could turn your child against doing any types of activities because he will feel forced into the activity that you enjoy. For instance, if you are extremely good at soccer and you would like to see your child enjoy it as well, that is wonderful. But if your son enjoys playing football instead, you will need to let go of that soccer dream without placing guilt on him. It's his turn to work out what his dreams are and choose the activities he enjoys.

Having Too Many Interests

There are children who absolutely love everything they do and try. They have natural athletic talent, are quick witted and able to pick up new things easily, and really enjoy being active. These types of children end up in a dilemma when they need to pick and choose what they want to do as an extracurricular activity because they want to do everything. You will need to help them find their niche. Otherwise, your son or daughter is likely to become overwhelmed with all that is going on and may begin to feel stressed in keeping up with it all.

Alert!

Families with more than one child will have to be especially careful not to let one child dominate all of the time set aside for extracurricular activities, especially when one child seems to have more interests than another. Try to keep it even and fair as much as possible.

The impact of stress on a child depends on her personality, maturity, and style of coping. Children often have difficulty describing exactly how they feel. Instead of saying "I feel overwhelmed," they might say, "My stomach hurts." Other signs of stress in some children include crying, displaying aggressive behavior, talking back or acting irritable, or becoming nervous or fearful.

Make a plan together about activities that are offered through your community or your child's school. Talk to your child about limiting her activities and explain the different reasons for the limitations. Have her plan out a schedule and include homework time, practice time, family time, and downtime. Encourage her to choose activities that she really enjoys and let her know that she can try something else later if she feels she wants to. For example, if your daughter wants to play on both the volleyball and basketball teams at school and they both fall in the same season, that level of activity may be too much and practices and games may conflict, causing even more stress. Have her choose one sport at first, with the chance to try another sport the next season if she's still interested.

Fact

It is important that your child has some type of physical activity or she runs the risk of becoming overweight. Research has shown that the number of overweight kids in the United States is approaching 20 percent. A new study reveals that one in four obese children have early signs of type 2 diabetes-a type that was seen only in adults until recently.

Having No Interests

Shy or withdrawn children often seem as if they have no interests. If this is your child, never fear. There are activities out there that will pique his interests. You just have to help your child find them.

You can start by talking to other parents about the activities their children enjoy. Ask your child if he would be more interested in pursuing an activity that a friend is already involved in. Call your community's information center about the activities they offer. Broaden your scope of activities. For instance, call art centers to see what classes they offer children. Try youth groups or Scouts that do different types of activities together. If you continue to encourage your child and give him the time and resources, he will find his interests.

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From The Everything Parent's Guide to Raising a Successful Child Copyright © 2004, F+W Publications, Inc. Used by permission of Adams Media, an F+W Publications Company. All rights reserved.

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