Learning Happens Outside of School Too. Aug. 16, 2023

Last week’s blog looked at how good habits, healthy routines, and setting up systems that help to keep everybody on task set the stage for a successful school year. Of course, school is not only about academics. Other types of learning happen there as well, e.g., physical, emotional, and social learning, and growing also happens in school. Lots of significant learning happens outside of school as well.

Benefits of extracurricular activities

They can help children develop their competency and confidence. Extracurricular activities can be especially beneficial for our children who struggle in school. These activities can provide a counterbalance to the negative weight of academic struggles. So, help them find things they enjoy. Positive experiences from extracurricular activities can benefit them in many ways.  Being on a team can help children to develop cooperation as well as social and leadership skills. Plus, the felt sense of belonging is an added bonus.

Athletics may be the first extracurricular activity that comes to mind; however, many other activities provide similar benefits. Academic teams, hobby clubs, community service programs, etc. help kids expand their abilities and confidence.

Finding activities that click

Biological parents may find it easier to identify activities that are a good fit for their children more easily than adoptive parents do because they and their children probably share some of the same talents and aptitudes. We lack the commonality of shared DNA though.  Learning what their innate aptitudes are requires more effort on our part. We want to expand our list to include activities that might lie outside our traditional family patterns.

In fact, our children may be completely unsuited for following our family’s patterns so we don’t want to be over-invested in their pursuing them. Adoptive parents will need to be more intentional about discerning the activities click with and suit our children.

If we know a lot about our children’s birth parents and their generational patterns, preferences, and aptitudes, it makes sense to look there first to see if our children might take to them naturally too.

But, if that information is unavailable, then we have to work harder to discover where our children’s natural talents lie. This will require more effort on our part. We will want to be intentional about creating opportunities for them to explore different activities so they can discover what they enjoy and what they  are good at.

Consider their temperament when suggesting activities.

For example, a child may prefer solo activities over team sports. So, if they want to play on a sports team, something like running or wrestling may suit them better than soccer or baseball. When we guide our children to activities that suit them we increase their capabilities, build confidence, and increase their sense of joy. This, in turn, helps them feel more comfortable in the world. All of us yearn for this, especially adopted persons.

Or, perhaps they are interested in the arts like dancing, singing, or performing while sports bore them. Or, maybe they enjoy expressing their creativity in painting, drawing, and writing. Their interests may tend to building like carpentry or Lego©. The key is to help them find where they shine and what feeds their spirits.

Their preferences and innate aptitudes matter

When we guide our children to activities that increase their capabilities, build confidence, and feel joy, it helps them feel more comfortable in the world. It is a definite bonus when they find activities that give them a  feeling of community, of finding their place, of belonging.

The search for activities that are a good fit will yield many misses. It is unrealistic to expect them to like every activity they try. (If we are honest with ourselves, we’ve probably tried and abandoned many activities before we found the ones that resonate with us.) Give them the same chance to try and to also discard unsuitable activities.

Praise their EFFORTS and willingness to try new things. Some will suit them, some will not. They will learn something from every experience though as they grow into the person they are meant to be. Encourage their interests without expecting the activity to become a long-term commitment or passion. Look for a balance between encouraging persistence and making them miserable by forcing them to engage in an activity that truly does not suit them.

Of course, it is possible that our child might show an interest in following in our footsteps.  It feels great when we have things in common. And… since many of our children don’t want to disappoint us, do make sure it is what they truly want and not simply a way to please you.  Focus on identifying their natural gifts and playing to their strengths.

Strive for balance

If everyone in the family is over-scheduled and run ragged, tensions are sure to occur and relationships strained. We also want to leave room for some unscheduled time—for them and us. Downtime is valuable in its own right. Remember, that one of the Rs in  “R and R” stands for rest.

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