Choosing After-School Activities
If you're not home when your child's school bell rings, you probably hope that he will stay out of trouble until you get home. It's during these after school hours that children are more likely to get involved in alcohol or illegal drug use, gangs or violence, and sexual activity.1
After-school activities are a great way to help reduce your child's unsupervised time, possibly lowering his risk for involvement in these behaviors. After-school activities have several other benefits as well,1 including
- Building self-esteem and self-confidence
- Enhancing social skills
- Teaching sportsmanship
- Providing exposure to other cultures and people
- Improving time management skills.
After-school activities don't have to be school sponsored or school related. Clubs and programs can be sponsored by local community centers, places of worship, 4-H clubs, or nonprofit organizations. Activities can involve academics, sports, foreign languages, arts, or something just for fun! Volunteer work can be another great way for a child or teen to spend her time after school. Volunteering provides kids with a sense of responsibility and compassion; it also can help boost self-confidence as a child learns that she is capable of doing something to help others.
With all these options, how do you decide which program is best for your child? Here are a few things to keep in mind when enrolling your child in after-school activities:
- What are the child's interests?
- What is the child's age?
- What are his abilities?
- How much time does this activity take?
- How does the activity fit in with your own schedule?
Remember, after-school activities should not become a burden for your child; they are meant to enhance her knowledge and build her character. She should not be overly tired as a result of these activities. If an after-school activity starts interfering with her school work or takes up so much time that she doesn't have time for family, you may need to cut down the number of hours she spends on it.2 Keep in mind that each child's tolerance is different. One child may be able to handle only one activity, whereas another child may be able to participate in three. Your child's activities should match her needs, interests, and abilities while at the same time accommodating your schedule.
1 Partnership for Learning. After-School, last referenced 12/9/2002.
2 University of Missouri Outreach and Extension. After-School Activities and Self-Esteem, last referenced 12/9/2002.
Reprinted with the permission of the Department of Health and Human Services.
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