No parent wants to see her kid cooped up inside all weekend while others are out riding their bikes and taking dance lessons. But it’s hard to know how to encourage kids to join in activities when they seem reluctant, too shy or just plain uninterested. Most kids want to be with their friends, but sometimes fear or shyness can get in the way.
Some children have a more serious reason for not participating. If you suspect your child is living with depression or another mental illness, seek help from the family doctor. For the rest of you, try to stay positive as you work to create opportunities for your child. Here’s how to encourage kids to get off the couch and have a good time:
1. Get to the Root
Start a discussion with your child so you can uncover what might be holding him back. Is he afraid of the football coach or thinks ice hockey is uncool? Try to ease their concerns.
2. Be a Role Model
If you sit on the couch most of the weekend, your child won’t be inspired. Instead, let her see you going to book club or hitting a yoga class. Show her that a nice mix of activities can be rewarding.
3. Gather a Group
Some kids won’t make a move unless their friends do the same thing. If yours is more of a follower, find out which activities his pals are into and then offer to sign him up.
4. Pair Up Siblings
Got an older brother already participating in something? Ask him to take your shyer kid under his wing. Attending an art class or gymnastics with a sibling can be a lot more fun.
5. Start Slowly
If you do get your child to agree to an activity, make sure it’s low-key. Lessons once a week, rather than most days, may be less threatening to a kid who’s not keen on participating.
6. Give Them an Out
Did the activity fail? If they went several times but just didn’t enjoy it, let them skip it for a week. Too much pressure to attend faithfully could backfire.
7. Dig Deep
Not every kid is sporty or arty. Instead, delve into your child’s interests to come up with something just for them. For example, a kid who loves superheroes may be perfect for a comic book drawing class.
8. Go With Them
Seek out a mom-and-me class. You might read together for a parent-child book group or bike on weekends as part of a cycling club.
9. Look Locally
Are there people in need in your area? Your child can learn to participate by joining others in raking leaves, stacking food in a pantry or walking dogs.
10. Schedule Play Dates
Try to expose your kid to others by arranging for a pal to come over each week. Solid friendships may lead to more participation in the future.
11. Find the Crowd
Do the local kids all head to the park after school? Encourage your child to join this exodus. They might realise they’re practicing their jump shots for basketball on Saturdays.
12. Explain the Benefits
Talk up the positive side of participation, which includes more friends, physical exercise and good old-fashioned fun!
13. Offer Praise
Let your kid know how proud you are that they’re trying a new sport or attending an after-school class. Even if they are not in love with the activity, knowing you’re behind them may help.
14. Give It Time
If they’ve completed something but says no to anything else, don’t worry. They may just need a breather for now and will come back to the idea of participating later.
15. Be a Little Insistent
Still have a kid who’s dragging his feet? If your child suddenly changes their mind, step in. Tell them to just try it a few times. Who knows? He could end up loving it.