When Kids Want to Quit

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When Kids Want to Quit

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My son wants to quit playing soccer. He has played for almost 10 years, is this typical of most teens?

Being a teenager is a full‐time job. Most spend more than 30 hours a week at school and engage in a variety of other academic activities including part‐time jobs, music lessons, and sports. Others, however, drop after school adventures in favor of “chillaxin,” spending time with technology, and avoiding their parents. As school becomes more time consuming and friends become more important, life‐long pursuits of pleasure often turn into distant memories and new interests become nonexistent.

It can be difficult for parents to convince their children to stay committed to an old activity or become excited about something new, but research shows that outside interests are good for kids. Teenagers that participate in extracurriculars are less likely to become teen parents or abuse drugs and alcohol. These kids also have more developed social skills, stronger problem solving abilities, and make better grades.

So should you be the “pushy” parent that forces your son to engage, or should you be the “pushover” parent that accepts yours son’s passive nonparticipation? The answer is neither. It is difficult to force a teenager to do anything; however, a well timed and carefully choreographed conversation can provide insight into your teens thinking as well as encourage him to make the right decision.

The first step is to ask your teen why he wants to stop an activity that was previously a passion. The second step is to listen and wait for their words. Too many parents try to fill awkward silence with adult wisdom. Allow your teen the time and space he needs to explain what is going on in his mind.

Some adolescents end their involvements because they are uncomfortable in their present situation. These teens may fear failure because they are not as good as the other kids, stop because they lack the dedication to stay competitive, or drop out because the new coach is too harsh. In these situations, it is best to listen and assist with problem solving strategies as your son may actually want to continue but is unsure about how to proceed.

Other teens quit because they want to try something new. After years of playing a particular sport, they decide acting in a play or joining the school newspaper is just what they need. Support their new passion even if it is different from your interests.

Lastly, there are the teens that stop participating but can’t tell you why. Quitting a passion may be an indicator that your son is emotionally struggling. Look for signs of stress such as illness, fatigue, or dropping grades. Contact the school and talk to his teachers. If these professionals acknowledge behavioral changes, it may be time to seek outside professional assistance.

It is developmentally important for adolescents to regularly participate in self‐esteem building adventure and fun after school activities. In fact, according to the US Census, 83% of children ages 6‐17 benefit from some type of extracurricular activity. At some point, however, your child may want to quit. Make sure to ask why and help your teen achieve a healthy balance between school, activities and family.