It is estimated that over 8 million school age children are left unattended after school is let out. Statistics show that the hours between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. are when kids are most likely to take part in high risk behaviors such as drug use, drinking alcohol and youth violence. Between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. is when the highest amount of teen criminal activity takes place. This sends a loud message that the after school hours are a crucial time to get our kids into structured activities and programs that are supervised in order to keep them safe.
As we begin a new school year many parents are looking at having one of more children involved in band, choir, cheerleading, sports, school clubs, private music or dance lessons, and these are just a few of things that take up a student’s extra time.
Extracurricular activites are wonderful for children. They enrich the lives of the student, their families and in turn our communities. These activities create well rounded children who learn what their interests and talents are because they have been exposed to such opportunities. The great thing is that most schools and communities offer many things for students and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune for parents. We all know just how expensive having multiple children in classes is. It can be a shock.
- School sports – starting in middle school kids are usually permitted and encouraged to play organized sports. This can be a great motivator for some students as the schools usually require a minimum grade point average to allow students to play. For some students this is reason enough to do the homework and score well on exams.
- Music and arts – there are many studies that prove that music involvement improves test scores in students. Statistics also show that children involved in music and other arts are less likely to get involved in things such as drugs, alcohol, sexual activity and truancy. Instruments and supplies are usually rented at a nominal fee depending on your needs. These are also activities that are usually offered through the school as electives which means that parents don’t have to pay for private lessons but can choose to if they choose.
- School clubs – some parents don’t view clubs, sports or music things at school as extracurricular but they are. Anything that does not cover core subjects in school and can take time after school is considered extracurricular. School clubs offer opportunities for leadership that student’s don’t otherwise have. These clubs are also another way for students to find a peer group in which they have something in common with the members. It is like having built in friends with the same interests as you.
- Community involvement (after school activities)- this can be Little League, Big Brothers and Big Sisters and other types of involvement. These organizations all give students a huge boost of self confidence while helping them to contribute to society and be part of a group with a common goal.
These are just a few of the things that children can look forward to. Parents will most likely know what the student’s needs are and what is age appropriate (use a school counselor if you need input). It is also important for parents to understand the importance of not overscheduling children. While we all want well rounded, independent members of society, we do not want students that are full of stress and anxiety. Parents should listen to what their children want while helping them to reach outside of their comfort zones as appropriate.