We've all been there. Too tall, too short, too skinny, too fat. It doesn't matter what set you apart when you were younger, we've all been victims of not fitting in somewhere. But when it happens to your kids, what won't you try to help them avoid being left out?
Fortunately, there are many activities where your kids can strike out on their own and meet new friends outside of their regular peer group. Sports are a good place to start since there are so many different directions to go.
Team sports are good since many are organized. They require a general knowledge of the game and some proficiency, but can sometimes be expensive if there are a lot of league fees and equipment to purchase. Some can be overly competitive and somewhat exclusive. So, the way to go around that is by looking for community teams or church teams where everyone is welcome (Johnson County Parks and Recreation www.jcprd.com).
Individual sports usually focus on personal achievement such as tennis, bowling, ping pong and billiards, but do require competitors to play. Some individual sports such as golf and martial arts also provide opportunities for practice and play without the need of direct competition.
Golf is a game with lots of tradition and can be played by both young and old alike. Equipment can be purchased or rented and can be played with little or no experience when just starting out. The advantages of playing golf are that the sport is open to a wide variety of players who might not otherwise engage in physical activities and can be played alone or in groups.
Martial Arts, whether it be Tae Kwon Do, Karate or other forms, offer a completely different scope. Focusing on the individual student rather than a group, martial arts builds on an individual's small accomplishments which is extremely positive for those struggling with low self-esteem. In addition to training in self-defense, building up of physical strength and flexibility, martial arts is really an individual sport. Though not required, school tournaments and sparring are a natural outcome from all the studio training. Making friends can be easier here since there is the underlying , non-competitive common goal of individual accomplishment. Locally, Ko's Blackbelt Academy, with several studios throughout Johnson County, offer classes for ages 3 and up with free classes for new students (www.kosblackbeltacademy.com)
Music, theater and other performing arts or art classes can also provide a unique outlet if sports do not fit the mold. The liberal arts can create opportunities to express creativity and originality that otherwise might not be found in other activities. If your schedule is too busy during the school year, summer camps are a great way to try out the performing arts without a major commitment (www.cytkc.org).
Social and Church Clubs are another great way to meet new friends and interact with the community usually in a volunteer capacity. Girl Scouts, Brownies, Camp Fire, American Heritage Girls, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Royal Rangers, Missionettes, AWANAS, King's Kids, 4-H just to name a few, offer unique learning opportunities and life skills applications as well as biblical instruction and tradesmanship. (bsa.org, girlscouts.org, awanas.org, kansas4h.org, campfireusa.org, ahgonline.org, royalrangers.ag.org & mgc.ag.org)
It's easy to get overwhelmed with too many activities, so it's best to try one or two out to see what fits best. Since the goal is to belong to something, find the activity that coordinates with your family's schedule and your child's interests. Once you find it, you'll finally see how well your kids really do fit in!