Inhale, exhale. Repeat. Here comes hockey season.

By Jill McKenzie

September 27, 2017 3:14 PM

If you have school-aged children you understand how busy the winter months get, whether your kids are in hockey or not.
Be it football, volleyball, basketball and badminton, your regular music or dance lessons, karate, hockey or figure skating, having your children in extra-curricular activities adds a whirlwind element to your life that is hard to overstate.
But let’s be very clear. These extra-curricular activities are a privilege that not everyone can afford. There are many parents that would love the to enroll their kids into a program of some kind, but can’t.
Before we go griping about how our weeks are packed with trips to the rink and back and forth to the school, let’s be grateful we’re in a position to grant our children these experiences. And for those who are on the borderline of no longer affording sports or lessons for their kids, hopefully these tips will help.
Build or join a parent network
Kids outgrow things, often, before they have a chance to get broken-in.
Don’t be bashful about asking around for used sports equipment, dance and skating outfits, musical instruments and the like. If the option is buy used or drop out, your child will quickly see the wisdom of second-hand shopping. Not only that, reusing as much as we can is the ethical and environmental choice in almost every scenario.
Join used buy-and-sell groups on Facebook, watch kijiji, and haunt the thrift stores ahead of time to find what you need. Sell or give away what you can no longer use. Hopefully you can significantly cut the cost of your child’s activities.
Keep a level head
Even if little Johnny is NHL-bound, which I’m sure he is, purchasing top-of-the-line equipment is a luxury not a necessity. You mustn’t sacrifice your child’s safety to save money, and no one is suggesting that you should. But when forced to buy something new, what considerations do you make? Durability? Comfort? Budget?
Staying within your spending parameters is what keeps your kids’ activities from leading your family into debt and paying interest on credit card bills you can’t pay off in their entirety. Yes, Johnny might want the best hockey stick available, but sticks break and need replacing. Consider what you will be spending over the entire season before you give in to the temptation to overspend. This is particularly true where more than one child is involved. In how many activities can you afford to go over-budget?
Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize
It’s wonderful to see kids thrive and enjoy their extra-curricular activities. They learn determination, perseverance, sportsmanship, how to win, and lose, with grace. These are life lessons that will help them become future leaders in the community.
The character-building that kids gain when they set goals and work towards them is remarkable and it’s inspiring to see volunteers in every community commit to providing these opportunities to youth.
Just remember that if your child is too tired to concentrate at school she will be worse off, no matter how much she gains from after school clubs and lessons. Should the vital foundations of your children’s education go unlearned, they might struggle their whole lives. No one wants to see that.
Strike a balance. Schedule in quiet time every day. Make homework and reading a part of the routine and not something that’s shoved to the back of the line. Limit the use of iPads to entertain during wait-times when there’s homework to do. Make those filler activities educational to ensure your child’s grades don’t slip.
Don’t forget to eat
Besides getting to practice on time, parents have work and volunteer obligations, conflicting schedules between children, a house and possibly animals to look after, and any number of other details to remember. It’s no wonder people feel like they have to eat out.
Take-out meals are a budget buster, however, and some careful menu-planning will go a long way towards keeping things economical. Plan a block of time every week where you prepare food ahead. Cutting up fruit and vegetables for lunches will make mornings go smoothly, defrosting meat for supper and cooking double for leftovers will save you time on your busiest evenings.
Your child’s participation in extra-curricular activities is a part of the larger picture of his or her emotional and physical well-being. Whether or not you can afford organized sports or arts programming doesn’t mean their future is a write-off.
Having an active, engaged and meaningful childhood can happen in any number of ways. Having an involved parent and some time at the library is a great start on creating an after-school program all your own. Don’t despair. And if sports are right for your child and you need a helping hand, go to www.kidsportcanada.ca for more information.

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