Being sociable and participating in what’s going on around them encourages children and young people to develop a sense of belonging.
Your children are naturally the centre of your world; however, it can be a good life lesson for them to realise the world does not, in fact, centre round them.
Getting out and participating in activities they enjoy – and perhaps putting others first – helps children feel good about themselves and has a big impact on their emotional well-being.
Young people who actively engage in activities beyond their immediate family and compulsory schooling feel as though they matter, which in turn has a positive impact on their confidence. Their extracurricular activities give them the opportunity to learn more about themselves, while at the same time developing other social skills, like the importance of compromise and clear communication.
Those who are actively involved in sport or participate regularly in social and leisure activities are likely to form strong friendships, with the result that they are less likely to become lonely or withdrawn.
Another great way for young people to get out and about is volunteering. While some volunteer roles have an age minimum, younger children can participate in local community initiatives like litter picks or help out at school, sporting and community events where you are close at hand.
Try not to let transport problems prevent your child from getting involved in the activities that interest them. If your child is too young to travel alone on public transport, find out if other parents will help with lifts. Perhaps you can repay them in other ways, e.g. sharing petrol costs, providing refreshments, etc.
Participation is an essential part of children’s rights and it is important that all children and young people are involved in the decisions that affect their lives, whether it is at school, in their local community or in the wider world.
This right to be listened to is set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and was enshrined in law in Wales in 2011.
All children and young people must be allowed to enjoy this right to express their views freely. In practice, this is not always as easy as it sounds and many young people, in particular, disabled young people may need support to speak out.
Some children and young people will turn to their parents, friends or other family members for this support, but others may need help from an independent professional advocate.
Young carers should be given the same opportunities to participate in the activities that interest them as other young people.