Tuesday, March 25, 2014

ADD and Extracurricular Activities

As I watched my son kick at the dirt on the soccer field, I began to wonder if this is where he should be. It's not that the soccer field was a bad place for him, it was that he hadn't shown much interest in the sport yet.

Admittedly, part of this disinterest is probably due to the fact that both his father and I are very busy people. We didn't put the time into the sport that he may have needed. But, a big part of it had to be that I can see the fire in his eyes when he's doing something he's passionate about. I hadn't seen that fire out on the soccer field. Maybe this just wasn't the right fit for him right now.

As a boy with some characteristics of ADD, he doesn't get most of his confidence in a public school setting. For this one, we need activities that build confidence; that give him a sense that he is good at something; that he can have successes and excel. Everyone needs to feel that they are capable of succeeding. Many times to feel this way, we need to feel what it feels like to succeed!

Although soccer may not have been his thing, here are some things that we've found really work for his personality and are good for growing brains and why:

G hit the ground running and has been running from 10 months on.  It is a sport that doesn't really have a learning curve, so, it doesn't take the time and attention that some other sports might. In fact, most kids like to do it for fun! Like every sport, learning what is the appropriate amount for a child to train is a good idea. Training for a marathon may not be a good idea, but, a healthy amount of running can be really good for them. I have a good friend whose son was diagnosed with ADHD and running was his treatment of choice. Every day they would run.

G was excited to be a cub scout the moment he got his blue cub scout shirt and his cub scout book. His confidence in himself grows with every patch I sew on his shirt, or belt loop he gets, or pin he gets to pin on me. The book is filled with achievable goals that teach the kind of stuff you want your son to learn, along with a lot of stuff that he thinks is really cool, like how to tie knots, or survive in the wilderness.

Many of these goals are achievable because they are quick enough to get done in an hour, and he gets a  reminder of his success visually, with the patches, as well as socially when he gets to tell all of his leaders and his parents what he's done.

I like that he is learning hard work, how to set and achieve goals, the feeling of success, how to make friends. He is learning that a scout is "trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent." Who wouldn't want their child to learn those things. Besides that, he thinks it's really cool right now to camp out with his dad or build pine wood derby cars, and how could anyone argue with that!

Chess is a game that requires incredible mental focus and forethought. I've never been very good at it, however, I've been very impressed when reading what it can do for one's brain! I was a bit surprised when G wanted to join the Chess club and I was happy to learn that he takes his turn at winning sometimes. He wins just enough to make him want to keep it up. Our school offers Chess, but, many times they have chess clubs in your community. Our local library will sometimes host Chess groups. Paul Tough, in his book, How Children Succeed, has a lot to say about the benefits of chess. I'm sure there are other books on this topic as well!

All of my kids love music. G especially loves to move to music, to dance to music, and to play music on the piano. Learning music is very good for a developing child's brain. A program that we have found success with all of our children is the Let's Play Music Program. G especially was drawn to it as it promotes learning music through play!

We are still trying to figure out how extracurricular activities fit into each of our children's lives as well as ours. Hopefully we can find activities that encourage successes and promote a healthy sense of self.

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