Wondering if you should let your child decide on his or her own co-curricular activities (CCAs) during the primary and secondary years? Or is your parental involvement needed, to create more opportunities for development?
Well, it depends on your priorities. Here’s why some parents might be intentional about choosing their children’s CCAs, and getting an early start:
They were specialists in a particular activity and know the scene well — e.g. children of sportspersons will tend to follow in their footsteps.
They’ve set their sights on their children entering particular secondary schools via the Direct School Admission (DSA) route.
They want their children to have school representation opportunities, especially in secondary school, to attain CCA points that can be used for junior college or polytechnic admission.
They want their children to have a strong CCA participation record, which will help them stand out when applying to tertiary institutions.
If you’re a chill parent or believe that children should be given space for exploration, this may seem far-fetched or even distasteful, but the fact is that some parents do start plotting their children’s CCA journeys from the pre-primary years.
As with all things in life, we believe that balance is key. Children should be given time and space to discover their passions. Yet, there are instances where you might want to step in to help support your child’s CCA growth:
Your child has a natural ability that hasn’t been spotted by the school, perhaps because your child is an introvert.
Your child is yearning to be “good” at something, or wants to develop a skill, but doesn’t know where to begin. (This must come from your child, and not be a result of unfavourable peer comparisons by parents.)
You feel your child needs a life experience that can build confidence, resilience, perseverance, and time management — school-team training is perfect for developing all of these traits.
For the above scenarios, some “strategising” might come in handy. How can you help your child with his or her CCA choice? Here’s what you can do:
Let’s say your child is in a primary school with an affiliated secondary school. If you and your child are happy with the school, and you expect that your child will gain entry to the affiliated secondary school, it may be wiser to choose a CCA that is offered at the secondary level. Some children are left floundering in Secondary 1 when they realise their school doesn’t offer the activity that they’ve been immersed in for several years, and it can be hard for them to find a replacement activity. Furthermore, those used to the intensity of school-team training may find CCA participation at a recreational level unsatisfying.
Of course, once children reach secondary school, they may also decide that they would like to try a new CCA — ideally, this should be a choice, and not the only option open to them.
Connect With Other Parents
If you’re the sort who loathes parent WhatsApp groups and would prefer not to engage in school talk, you might want to make an exception. Other parents can give you valuable insights into how CCAs are run, based on their personal experiences. You can find out where to get discounts or a better price on training gear, as well as get the lowdown on the quality of coaching, what the school looks for in team selections, and what the actual costs are like, taking into account the additional training that may be needed if your child progresses to the next level.
In some schools, you’ll also find that parents (who can spare the time) contribute to keeping CCAs going — they assist teachers and coaches, they bring refreshments for everyone after training, and they show up in full force to support the school team at events. In fact, you may be glad to be part of such a generous community.
Contact The Relevant Trainers
Often, school trainers run external sessions that your child can join for a taster. These may be in the form of enrichment classes held within the school, or at a separate location. Letting your child try these sessions before committing to a CCA is useful — you can see if your child has rapport with the coaches, and if you share the same values about growth and development.
You may also find that CCAs at a recreational (i.e. non-school team) level don’t offer the personal attention that a child needs for honing a skill, simply because it’s too crowded, and the main objective is to let everyone have fun. Participating in external sessions helps coaches to get to know your child better, and you can get an honest assessment on your child’s aptitude and potential for advancement. However, do be mindful that trainers are running a business, and you don’t have to accept their recommendations wholesale. It’s best to do your own research, and use your instincts as a guide.
Be Prepared To Invest Time, Effort, And Money
If you’ve prided yourself on being a hands-off parent, having to support your child’s CCA involvement, especially at the school-team level, may come as a rude shock. Even at the recreational level, you may have to buy gear and sign up for additional training if you’re so advised. And if your child is invited to join the school team, you will have to sort out transport (or even lunch) arrangements for practice and competition days, ensure that there are no clashes with other after-school activities, while at the same time making sure that your child is not too exhausted to keep up with schoolwork. You will also have to teach your child to negotiate homework deadlines with teachers, especially during competition season. And finally, you may find that there are additional charges that you had not anticipated, such as competition or costume fees.
This is why it’s good to lean on your parent network, and ask as many questions as you can before making a firm commitment. At the end of the day, give what you can, and don’t beat yourself up for not being able to do more. After all, as parents, we’re all trying our best.