With an online culture that bombards them with images of perfection, young people today can often feel under pressure. Coping with these unrealistic expectations can be challenging for them to handle and, sadly, this can sometimes lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression – so it’s important that children and young people have the skills to handle these pressures as they make their way into adulthood.
One of the ways that schools can help build pupils’ resilience and self-esteem is through co-curricular activities. Co-curricular activities are those that support and complement core curricular subjects. These activities take place after school or at lunchtime and can include anything from sports and music to chess and debating.
We recently spoke to Simon Burbury, Assistant Rector at Dollar Academy about the value of co-curricular activities and what benefits they bring to pupils.
Why co-curricular activities matter
A busy timetable requires responsibility and time management and there is now a growing body of research that is telling us that being ‘active’ and participating in co-curricular activities drastically reduces the probability of mental health issues. Co-curricular activities provide opportunities for community involvement, as well as a platform for developing mental resilience.
When we succeed, we feel good about ourselves. Even small victories like perfecting a musical scale or scoring a goal can boost self-esteem.
One of the greatest benefits of co-curricular activities is that they offer a chance to master skills in a fun and relaxed environment. They also offer the opportunity to learn how to quickly bounce back from failure – an invaluable lesson in life.
Building mental resilience
Because co-curricular activities can establish a strong sense of self-belief, they can be seen as a key component of building mental resilience. Pupils learn how to be productive members of society.
That’s not to say that mentally healthy people don’t experience ups and downs like everyone else – we are all vulnerable to mental health challenges like anxiety and depression. The difference is that they don’t allow their feelings to define them.
Growth is the cornerstone of personal development. Co-curricular activities expose pupils to new skills and help them to expand their worldview.
Learning a musical instrument is one of the few activities that engages both sides of the brain, demanding simultaneously creative and analytical skills. Activities like organised sport teach pupils how to apply physical and mental energy in conjunction with strategy.
Both promote practice, discipline, organisation, and teamwork - all skills that will prove very useful through school and beyond, enabling us to handle whatever challenges life throws at us.
Enhancing social skills
Making friends isn’t easy for everyone, especially at school, but by taking part in co-curricular activities with pupils with the same interests, it makes it easier for friendships to form.
Being in this type of situation on a regular basis allows pupils not only to nurture new friendships, but also teaches them how to relate to others by working together towards a shared goal.
Improving academic performance
Although you might think that getting involved in co-curricular activities could distract from homework and academic responsibilities, this really isn’t the case. Co-curricular activities promote passion and excitement – qualities proven to improve brain functionality.
They also require effective time management, helping pupils to develop the ability to prioritise opposing responsibilities. All of these additional skills are also hugely helpful in promoting academic performance.
If you’re considering a Scottish independent school for your child, make sure to take a look at which extra-curricular activities they offer on their website. With such a wide variety of activities available, there’s bound to be something for every child, no matter what their interests may be.
You can view Dollar Academy’s extensive range of co-curricular activities here.