Are you and your co-parent at odds over how your child(ren) spend their time after school? Do you think hockey and soccer should be on the list, but your ex feels like drama and piano lessons are a better option?
One of the benefits of single parenting is that children can create an authentic relationship with each parent independently, participating in certain types of events without influence from the other.
But when it comes to guiding after-school activity choices, it’s important to focus on your child’s likes and dislikes, along with his or her temperament. Quite often, parents want to live vicariously through their children and relive their own dreams, losing sight of what their own son or daughter may be interested in. Forcing a shy child — or one who lacks the requisite self-confidence — to get on stage with the local children’s theater program may cause anxiety and turn him or her away from theater later in life. Similarly, the benefits of sports participation are endless, but for children who are turned off by competition or whose experience in sports leads them to feelings of failure, participation in different music and arts programs provides a welcome alternative.
As the new school year begins, there are dozens of options when it comes to after-school programs. Research shows that youth in any of these programs do better in school and in their personal lives than young people from the same socioeconomic categories who were not enrolled in after-school programs.
To the surprise of some researchers, however, children involved in arts programs seem to do the best. They believe that a combination of roles, risks, and rules offered in arts programs have a greater impact on young lives.
While stereotypes can lead people to think of music and art education as somewhat frivolous, statistics prove otherwise. For example, students of the arts consistently outscore their non-arts peers on college exams in the verbal and math portions of the SAT.
But what if your child isn’t the arts-and-entertainment type? The thought of being dragged around an art gallery or science exhibit when they don’t want to go can cause some children to throw a temper tantrum. We’d all like to believe that our children will show a native interest in the arts, but the fact is that most of them need encouragement and help to enjoy it.
You can make visiting art shows, museums, and other activities related to arts and entertainment educational and fun for your family. One way to start is for both parents to support the idea. While you and your former spouse may have differences on key parenting issues, trying to find common ground when it comes to exposure to the arts is a good start.
Here are some other tips:
• When visiting a museum or participating in a cultural activity, don’t make it an all-day event. You don’t have to do it all or see it all. Even when children are having fun, they’ll likely get anxious after a few hours — especially if they’re constantly being told, “Just look. Don’t touch!”
• Start to display artwork around your home, and talk frequently about your own connections to the arts. Emphasize how each person experiences art differently and appreciates different things.
• When you’re planning a trip to a museum or gallery, go to the Website and choose pieces to study and/or discuss ahead of time. Learn about the artists and why they’re meaningful. This will help children connect to the work ahead of time.
• Some pieces of artwork and certain exhibits can be old. Find something in history that your kids are interested in and place art in the same context.
• Since photography is an art form, let children take their own photographs, if permitted. Let them be artists themselves!