The Importance of Adult Supervised Activities After School

    An important component of Loki’s enhancing her self-esteem, making friends and distancing herself from her
parents’ conflict was adult supervised activities outside and after school. An art teacher at her school had
identified her talent and enlisted her help in several projects. This gave her a chance to interact with her mentor
and peers outside of the boundaries of the classroom. During the summer, she lived at a relative’s home some
distance away to attend an art class. This experience also exposed her to positive adult supervision and an
environment in which she could interact successfully with her peers.

    Activities outside and after school such as sports, art, drama, volunteer activities, church or scouts provide an
important function for the student. One of the dangers of denying a child positive after-school activities, such as
sports, hobby groups, and school clubs supervised by adults, is that the child will eventually end up in non-adult-
supervised activities. These include stealing, shoplifting, gangs and drug use. If children are excluded from early
participation in activities, they will feel that they lack the skills to try later. Rather than risking embarrassment in
high school because they feel that they lack the skills for the team and because they have not made the habit of
being in after-school supervised activities, they will now gravitate into unsupervised and often negative activities.

    Molly’s parents, by using arguments as an avenue to ring up points against each other are shortsighted and
may be creating a field of future troubles and failure for her. She is depressed by the bickering and sabotaged in
her initial efforts to take up a positive, adult-supervised activity after school at age 12. She may be less likely to
start soccer or cheerleading at 16; she may be more likely to become involved with boys or drugs at 16. The
school activity might have enhanced her self-esteem and given her some positive peer support from other team
members. She might be less willing to go all the way and risk pregnancy if she felt as a team member, she did not
have to put out sexually to be popular. She might be less likely to use drugs to escape her problems, frustrations
and boredom if she had to be busy practicing a sport or was involved in a club.

    The long-term consequences of endless argument that never stop may be devastating for a child. Why argue
in front of a child? What purpose does it serve? Why not tell a child like Molly that there are many issues that you
both don’t agree on, but the one issue that you do agree on is that you love Molly and want to see the best for
her? Then argue all you want away from her and do not turn to her to acknowledge your verbal knockout.
     I try to foster social skills in my groups and in individual therapy sessions. I give permission to the children to
distance themselves from their parents’ arguments. Often they feel that they have to be there. I try to reinforce
the idea that their parents are adults and should be able to take care of themselves.

    I pose questions to the children such as, “Do the arguments ever solve anything or do they just lead to future
fights?” These questions help them to recognize what they have felt, but have not acknowledged—the arguments
are not for problem solving, but for prolonging fighting.

    I pose the question, “What would happen if you replied that wouldn’t it be better if they sought adult help in
solving their disputes?” I give them permission to withdraw from arguments that their parents are enlisting them in.
They did not buy a seat to the fights. Leave, read a book, talk to a friend. Giving children the freedom to leave the
battlefield empowers them with action.

    The children who try this report in amazement to the group that after a while the parents fight less because, as
many sibling know, fighting without an audience is not as much fun. However, if the fight involves physical
violence, calls to 911 are appropriate and even lifesaving.

    I point out that schoolyard fights tend to end much quicker if everyone walks away. The combatants no longer
feel that they have to perform for the onlookers.