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When the final bell rings: Afterschool care for your kids

By Diane Griffith, Staff Writer, myOptumHealth

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If you’re a working parent, one of your biggest concerns may be what your kids are up to after school. Making sure your children are safe and healthy when you’re not there can be a major worry.

An afterschool program can address that problem. A quality program will offer academic help for your child plus an array of recreational activities. These programs also give your child more practice in interacting with teachers and peers.

Studies of younger children show that enrichment activities like music and art can help them concentrate in school. These programs can also improve their work habits and self-esteem.

Finding a good afterschool program

To find quality afterschool care for a younger child, see if the program offers the following:

  • A relaxed environment
  • Engaging activities to choose from each day
  • Opportunities for children of either sex to try all activities
  • A nurturing staff
  • A variety of materials to keep children occupied
  • Plenty of space for group and individual play
  • An area for quiet play
  • Daily reports for parents on their child’s activities
  • An open-door policy for parents to visit at any time

Programs for teens

Many parents feel that their teens are old enough to be home alone after school. But studies show that risky and violent teen behavior takes place most often after school between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Teens are more likely to get into trouble or be victims of crime during these hours.

Also, children involved in afterschool sports, volunteer programs or other extracurricular activities are less likely to get into trouble. Unsupervised teens are at a higher risk for drug use, violent behavior and pregnancy.

Keeping your children off the street and involved in afterschool activities won’t just keep them safe. It can also improve their self-esteem, foster new friendships and help them get better grades.

If you’re having trouble finding a good afterschool program, don’t overlook the clubs and sports offered by your teen’s school at the end of the day. Your teen will be well-cared for and will be involved in an activity he or she enjoys. Plus, you won’t have the financial burden of paying for afterschool care.

What to look for

When searching for afterschool care for your teen, look for a program that:

  • Fosters positive relationships with adults and peers
  • Focuses on a child’s strengths, providing ways for him or her to excel and build self-esteem
  • Offers interesting academic, enrichment and/or community service opportunities

Financial concerns

Some parents avoid afterschool care because of the cost. But many programs offer financial aid, such as sliding-scale fees based on the family’s income. There are also federally funded programs. If you’re having trouble finding or paying for a program, call your local or county municipal offices for assistance.

View the original When the final bell rings: Afterschool care for your kids article on myOptumHealth.com 

SOURCES:

  • American Psychological Association. What makes a good afterschool program?
  • National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center. After-school programs: fact sheet.
  • American Youth Policy Forum. Young adolescents learn and thrive in after-school programs: Results of a three-year evaluation in six New York City middle schools.
  • Department of Education. Guide to U.S. Department of Education Programs, 2008.
  • University of Tennessee. How do I find quality after-school care for my child?
  • American Psychological Association. Different kids need different programs.

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