The emotional roller coaster of after school activities


The school year is underway and now the pressure is on.

It is time to start back up with the extra curricular activities.  Sports, music and academic coaching are high on the list for many children.

Time to coordinate drop/off and pick ups.

Time to carpool and check out the babysitter’s license status.

For parents of special needs children, there are, of course, appointments to add into the mix.  Most of us have some kind (or many kinds) of weekly therapy for our children like OT, PT, psychotherapy, or speech and language therapy.

The juggling is underway.

Of course, like all things, the juggling is more difficult when you are raising children that learn differently.  It is more difficult to coordinate logistically and it is more difficult to process emotionally.

Because we all have feelings when we see the ways our children do and do not fit in. We all have feelings when our children go to therapy instead of soccer practice.

There are definitely opportunities for our children to find their unique talents and excel in non-academic non-school settings.  My daughter, for example, loves her woodworking class where she needs no extra help and where the teacher thinks of her as a star student.

On so many levels this is a gift for my quirky, complicated daughter and for our entire family.

But there are also activities that I wish she would want to do but that we avoid because, at least right now because they are not a good match for her or because she needs more downtime than other kids or because she really needs the special needs version and it just does not work in our schedule.

It is easy to feel that your child is not doing enough.   This is especially true if your kids is developmentally behind in some ways. It is easy to start to feel distress or anxiety if you are comparing your child to others on the playing field or in the dance studio.

It is hard to let go of the after school dreams we have for our children.  I always hoped my children would be soccer players because I was not and always wanted to be.  But, alas, they are not.  Team sports, at least for now, especially for my daughter, are not the right match for us.It is easy to worry about what this means for her future when so many people emphasize the importance of team sports and athletics.

In the end, even though we know life is not a competition, it is easy to feel competitive and want our children to be in the game.  Even if when a particular game is the wrong game for them.

As we head into the thick of this fall season, it is important for our children and for our families that we really understand the specific needs of each child and create after school schedule that support those needs.

It is also important to create an after school schedule that is not overwhelming for the parent.  We are the ones doing the juggling.

It is ok to say no to extra-curricular activities especially if you are still trying to get a handle on bringing calm and predictability to daily routines. Or if you are feeling overwhelmed and spread too thin.  Kids need down time and so do we.

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2 Responses to “The emotional roller coaster of after school activities”

  1. Cheryl Says:

    Great post, Allison. You hit on a lot of points in here that affect all families, special needs or not. The challenge of creating a schedule that works for everyone, plus the hopes we have for what activities our children might enjoy, are tough topics to navigate. I seem to be a bit more at peace with things being lighter this year. We’re doing what we can, but I don’t have to feel bad if it’s not everything.

  2. Allison Says:

    Thank you so much, Cheryl.It is so difficult for all of us to navigate and to make peace with. I agree we are all doing what we can and it cannot be everything.
    Warmly, Allison

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