Now that the first few weeks of school have flown by and your family has likely settled into a manageable routine, you're probably starting to receive memos about the various clubs, sports, etc., that your children can be a part of throughout the school year. It's important to encourage even elementary- and middle-schoolers to get involved outside the classroom, especially since extracurricular activities have become such an important part of the college admissions and scholarship process, but making the right choices can be overwhelming for your and your child. Here are a few things you should keep in mind when helping your child choose after-school activities.

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1. Know the options. These days kids are not limited to sports and music. There are a slew of extracurricular options including everything from gardening clubs to philanthropic organizations and much more. Be sure to do your research, and don't be afraid to consider activities that are not school-sponsored, especially if you find something that your child is passionate about. 

2. Don't force it. Remember that your child doesn't have to participate in the activities that you enjoyed when you were young. Help them select activities that fit their unique personality--those that will enrich their lives and enhance their character--and never force something on them because you like it. Chances are, doing so will backfire and your child will either hate it entirely or won't even give it a chance.

3. Set a limit. So as not to burn you or your kids out, it's a good idea to set a limit on how many extracurriculars they can participate in per season. Overloading the family schedule could result in resentment and over-tiredness all around. Plus, it's better to choose one or two things to be really great at, than to choose four and be just okay.

4. Consider volunteering. Volunteer work looks great on any resume and it's something you can join your child in doing. Consider choosing a non-profit in your neighborhood to help out at a few hours a week. It'll be a nice break from the more competitive organizations and will help keep your kids grounded.

5. Be well-rounded. Your child may be the best athlete in his school, but you still might want to encourage him to join the book club (or anything else he has an interest in). Sometimes, having an outlet outside of your main focus can provide a much needed break and prevent stress and tension. Plus, it will give your child a chance to interact with people outside of his immediate social circle and help him become a more well-rounded person.

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