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Outside the Comfort Zone – How to Encourage Your Kids to Try Something New

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Looking for ways to nudge your kids out of their comfort zone to try a new extra-curricular activity?  It’s all in how you present the idea. Start with what’s in it for them. Trying out a new sport or skill gives a student the opportunity to make new friends; lets them try on new skills and can awaken a new passion.

Here are some suggestions from Patrick McLaughlin, Director of Campus Ministry at East Catholic High School to help parent encourage their children to try something new:

  • Encourage your child to see a new activity as a new opportunity to make new friends. Most high school students put making new friends among their top five priorities. For example, we have an astronomy club. Rarely is something like that offered in middle school so when they come here they might not even think of joining it. In fact, students new to the school might worry about joining it, thinking their friends will see them as nerds. But if they have an interest, a parent can point out that once they join that group they will be surrounded by people who share that interest with them. And there’s a whole new group of friends they might never have met.
  • Remind them that a new activity will look good on their college resume. While it is true that a well-rounded student can be seen as being a better candidate for a college, this shouldn’t be the sole reason for a student to get involved in something new. I don’t advise this as the only reason for the student to try something new. They will do best if they are doing things they enjoy; not just because they look good on a college resume. Also, it’s better for a college resume if a student does a few things well and even moves into leadership in those groups, rather than having a resume with many activities that they’ve just dabbled in.
  • Suggest new activities that are guided by the student’s interests and career goals. We have clubs oriented towards a professional track such as those for students who want to go into the medical professions or astronomy or science. These are the kinds of activities that can awaken a new passion for a career. Sometimes, it’s the competitions these clubs hold that interest students. For example, we have the Chemistry Olympiad, our Eniviro-thon and a Robotics Team. Appealing to your child’s competitive nature might just get them to try something new.
  • Boost their interest in giving back. For many high schoolers, the idea of contributing to the greater good is a powerful motivator. Many schools require a set number of hours of community service to graduate to encourage this, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised that many kids want to do something on their own for their community and the planet. We partner with about 20 nonprofits in the area that include homeless shelters, retirement homes, schools and after-school tutoring programs. Students in many schools have an array of opportunities to give back in ways that corresponds with how they want to relate to people and the activities they like to do. It’s a satisfying way to encourage your child to do something outside their usual activities.

In the end, parents need to walk a fine line when it comes to encouraging their kids to try new things. It’s all in how you present it to them. Start with a suggestion; not an order. You might open the conversation with something like ‘Have you considered this?’ Plant the seed that your family would be open to them doing a particular activity and then hope it takes root. That’s all any parent can do! In the end, like so many other parenting challenges, it’s the student’s decision.

About East Catholic High School

East Catholic High School is a regional college-preparatory school of the Archdiocese of Hartford in Manchester, CT. Students come from more than 35 towns in the Greater Hartford area and eastern Connecticut. East Catholic is a place where students discover who they are meant to be. The school has been awarded the Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education and is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the state of Connecticut. East Catholic students are challenged to build their own strong moral character while pursuing academic excellence, responsible citizenship, active participation in community service, sportsmanship, and an appreciation for the fine arts. An overwhelming number of East Catholic students (97 percent) go on to attend four and two year colleges. For more information, please visit the ECHS website.