As kids and teens head back to school, working parents are also preparing for "back to after school." Despite the fact that 60 percent of parents report having flexible work hours that allow them to take care of their children once the school day ends, a survey from Boys & Girls Clubs of America shows 75 percent still find that after-school time causes as much or more stress than in-school time. When it comes to after-school programs and resources, the study also found parents’ top priorities are providing a safe place for their children, academic mentoring and support, as well as sports and fitness programs. As an expert in youth development that specializes in these key areas, Boys & Girls Clubs of America offers these tips to help parents take the stress out of transitioning back to after school.
Each day 11 million children and teens leave school with no place to go, increasing their risk of being unsupervised, unguided and unsafe in communities across the country, according to a 2014 Afterschool Alliance study. And, since juvenile crime escalates during the hours of 3-7 p.m. according to the U.S. Department of Justice, parents have cause for concern about how their children spend their time during these critical hours. Particularly for working parents who cannot be home with their children when the school day ends, taking advantage of affordable, accessible after-school programs — ideally staffed by trained, trustworthy adult leaders — alleviates stress by providing peace of mind that their kids are safe, supervised and on a path to success.
Parents perceive the biggest challenges their children face when starting a new school year are preparing for the needs of the next grade level and keeping up with homework. According to Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s survey, nearly 60 percent of parents find it difficult to ensure their children are on a path to a successful school year. By making a plan for how and when to tackle homework each day and sticking to it, parents and kids can make the most of after-school time. Whether it’s at home with support from a parent or guardian, at a tutoring facility or at a community organization with academic programming such as a local Boys & Girls Club, setting aside a specific time and place for homework will avoid headaches for parents and children alike.
Explore and inspire
After spending a full day in school, kids and teens often benefit from tapping into their creative side after class lets out. Make time for them to explore art, music, dance and STEM programs to not only relieve stress but also to express themselves, explore new areas of interest and ignite potential passions that may last a lifetime.
With more than three out of 10 kids today considered obese or overweight according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, physical activity and nutrition education are paramount to changing this equation for future generations. After-school time offers the chance for young people to take part in sports and fitness activities that not only burn off pent-up energy but also build self-esteem and instill sportsmanship. Also, having kids help with dinner preparation not only offers an extra hand in the kitchen but also teaches healthy cooking and eating habits.
Fun with friends
As many adults can attest, school is a formative time for academics, as well as social growth. Spending time with friends and building relationships helps kids and teens hone social skills, unwind and simply have fun. After all, you’re only a kid once! While a structured after-school plan reduces stress, allow some flexibility to accommodate time with friends.
While these best practices are based on the success of the after-school programming Boys & Girls Clubs around the country offer kids and teens, the tips can be implemented by any parent or caregiver looking to foster academic success, healthy living and character development as the young people in their lives head back to school this fall.