Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Reigning in After-School Activities

I'm a big fan of the Miami Herald's Balancing Act Blog. Today's post by Cindy Krischer gives some fantastic tips on scheduling and managing all of those crazy after-school activities that are just gearing up after a long, hot summer.

I was totally unprepared for how much more flexibility I needed in my career once my children entered elementary school. Looking back, how on earth was I supposed to get to a 4pm soccer practice when I didn't get off work till 5pm? And dinner? What?

Between carpooling, enrolling in school-based activities and grouping the kids' activities together, I've made it work. But I wanted to share Cindy's excellent suggestions with you as you wade through a mountain of Brownies, soccer and tae kwon doe registration forms:

* Guage your flexibility at work. Your employer may be willing to make an arrangement with you, even if it's temporary, to allow you to get your kids to practices if you come in earlier. This usually involves a conversation in advance.

* Consider proximity. The more activities kids can do at school, the easier it is on working parents. Get a schedule of team try-ours from your child's school. Some day-care centers have started to offer dance or martial arts classes during the day.

* Let your child choose. Children inevitably are more successful when they choose the activity rather than a parent. "If it's something they really want to do, they are more likely to figure out on their own how to get where they need to be," says Mandee Heller Adler, a Hollywood college admissions consultant.

* Find a carpool. This is when networking with other parents pays off. When asked, most working parents are thrilled to split driving duties.

* Do the activity with your child. Attorney Valerie Greenberg enrolled in martial arts classes with her two kids. She found it the best way to combine exercise for her with activity for them.

* Look into online activities. Your child might want to take cooking lessons by watching online videos at home.

* Enlist multiple children in the same activity. This may seem like a no-brainer but it may require some compromise.

* Ask about flexibility. If you plan to sign up for gymnastics or dance classes for your child, find out whether they have make-up opportunities for those times when your work schedules prohibits you from getting your child to their activity.

* Lose the guilt. "Parents don't have to be at every practice or show," says parenting expert Laura Gauld of Sometimes, stepping back has its advantages, she says. "Someone else steps up and can turn out to be a good mentor for your child."

*Know the expectations. While elite youth sports teams are popular, they require travel and mandatory practices. It's best to check into requirements before signing up for a major commitment.

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