The Answers to Parents

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All in one place for the first time, parents can find answers to the many questions that come up all through a childhood.



The Answers to Parents Most Common Questions


What should I look for in recreation classes?

Parents enroll their child in community recreation classes so he can pick up new skills and enjoy himself. Sometimes these classes are well-run and satisfying, but other times they’re poorly taught and disappointing. In order to choose classes wisely, parents should try to observe programs before registering, and consider which activities are most appropriate. Then, once class sessions begin, they should monitor the program and help their child adjust.

Before you sign up for a class, watch a session taught by the instructor your child will have. Although it may be difficult for you to arrange an observation, it’s worth the effort. Many recreation programs sound exciting when described in catalogs and brochures, but turn out to be boring or inadequate. If possible, take your child along so he can let you know if he’s interested.

As you watch a class session, ask yourself these questions: how structured is the program? Does it look like fun? Do the children seem to be enjoying themselves? How does the instructor respond to a child who’s hesitant about joining the group? Is there unnecessary pressure on children to conform and achieve? Does the teacher seem to nurture creativity? Does she say, “I like the way you did that,” rather than, “You can do better than that?” Does she accept a child’s limitations? How large is the class? Do children get a chance to show the teacher what they can do? Do they have to spend much time waiting for turns?

If you decide to enroll your child in a class, briefly prepare him for the first session. Talk to him about the instructors, the equipment, the clothes he’ll wear, and any friends who’ll be in the class. Let him know about transportation arrangements and where you’ll be while the class meets. And since most children wonder about the availability of bath rooms, tell him that the recreation program has bathrooms.

On the first day of class, you’ll notice that some children quickly join in the activities while others have difficulty adjusting. If your child is reluctant to get involved, you might feel discouraged and embarrassed, especially if the other class members are having an easy time. You might also feel alone, questioning your parenting abilities and wondering what you’ve done to make your child shy and unwilling to participate. You might feel angry at your child, particularly if it was his idea to take the class.

In such a situation, a supportive teacher can help by smiling, waving, coming over to talk, and generally letting your child know he’s accepted even if he doesn’t choose to participate right away. You’ll also feel more comfortable if the other parents in the group are supportive rather than judgmental. While you’re encouraging your child to participate, try not to pressure him but rather accept his hesitancy and, if necessary, sit with him until he’s ready to join the group.

In later class sessions, he may continue to resist joining in or may become disenchanted with the program. Perhaps the instructor over whelms him, the other children seem too big, he’s not ready to separate from you, the teachers’ (or your) expectations create too much pressure, he’s unwilling to join in because you’re watching, or the class is not what he thought it would be. He may have had his own fantasies about the program, imagining he’d be free to jump on the trampoline, do somersaults, or improvise his own craft projects. But most programs allow little freedom—children are told what to do and how to do it, and they spend a lot of time waiting for their turns.

It’s not unusual for a child’s interest in a recreation program to dwindle as the weeks go by. You may hear, “I’ll go another day,” or, “I don’t want to go.” Often because of a rigid structure or intense competition, the classes stop being fun. Think back to your own experience with recreation programs. The classes that you enjoyed and continued to attend were ones that provided fun, acceptance, and positive feedback. The ones you disliked made you feel unaccepted and pressured.

If your child wants to drop out of a recreation class, discuss the situation with him and then with the instructors. They can help you decide whether you should spend some sessions helping your child adjust, or whether he should stop attending. Don’t force him to continue in a class he’s not enjoying, since such pressure is likely to increase his resistance to all classes. And don’t worry that quitting will make him a habitual “quitter.” He’s too young to have understood what he was getting into, or to need a lesson in perseverance. Just continue to expose him to a variety of experiences and activities so he can figure out what interests him and develop new skills.






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