by Jane Parent
The start of a new school year is a great time to try something new. Change might be in order because your son got cut from the baseball team and suddenly has time for an after school club. Or your daughter may be transitioning to a new school where she doesn’t know anyone.
Regardless, having extracurricular interests outside of schoolwork can help teens broaden their horizons and make new friends. But how can you encourage a reluctant teen to join an after school club or explore new challenges?
Here are five things you can suggest to encourage your teen to try something new this school year:
Try Something New
What are your interests? Have you always wanted to try out something related to art but weren’t sure whether you were talented? Are there other activities that intrigue you, but you’re not sure how to get involved? Make a list of all of your interests—both things that you are already somewhat experienced in and other areas that you would like to learn more about.
And remember, parents: this isn’t about your interests. “The ultimate goal is to focus on the teen’s motivations, interests, and needs, not the adult’s interests” says Dr. Riina Hirsch, Ph.D., a high school teacher in St. Louis, Missouri. “This is hard because we often feel so strongly that we know what is best, and it might be true, but people, especially teens, benefit more from experience and mistakes than advice.”
Look through your list and see if any of those interests line up with activities available at your school or in your community. If something you are passionate about is not already offered, consider starting up an after school club of your own. Most schools have a process for starting new student-run clubs.
3. Recruit a friend.
Grab a pal to join you in your activity search. “If a teen who is reluctant has a friend who can partner in the adventure of a new activity, that can also ease the transition to high school and increase the likelihood of success in joining something new,” offers Dr. Hirsch.
4. Narrow it down.
How many activities should you join? Some experts advise that a reasonable guideline is no more than three extracurriculars — one that’s physical, one that’s creative, and one that’s social or community-oriented. However, if deciding between multiple options overwhelms your son or daughter, start with just one. “Those who are reluctant may benefit from beginning with a single activity to experience success and enjoyment before pushing for more,” advises Dr. Hirsch.
Get a sense of which activities are going to help you develop the interests about which you are most passionate, then dedicate more time to those interests, instead of a smorgasbord of extracurriculars. Choose an activity that will allow you to make friends, build relationships, and get involved in something so you feel connected to your school.
Who knows—maybe that new activity will even lead to a career someday.