We have all seen the commercials for the YMCA touting the adage, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” in order to convince parents to enroll their children in an after-school program. Yes, staying out of trouble is a huge allure to aftercare and youth programs, but it also serves as an opportunity for kids to have positive social interactions and lead to a brighter social life. Whether you have a shy Sally or a mean Max, both will be able to benefit from structured, out of school activities. Here are 5 ways aftercare can lead to a brighter social life for children.
Kids get to interact in a new and different setting:
After school programs can encourage kids to explore sports, games, and play in general, as well as practice and learn good dietary habits. Through this learning and play will come new interactions that will boost your child’s self-esteem and embolden them to branch out socially. In a new setting, they will be introduced to peers who they may not interact with their regular school classroom and hallways. Plus, smaller groups in aftercare programs are more conducive to forming substantial connections because they aren’t in a structured, no talking, scholarly atmosphere. It breaks down the barriers of social groups, and here the “jock” can become friends with the “geek” because their social circles aren’t distancing them. If The Breakfast Club has taught us anything, it’s that social circles are meant to label and define people, and in a different environment it is easier to permeate them.
There are structured programs for differing interests:
Some programs are formed around academics, dance, sports, theater, and so on. There is a program for any child, and in these settings, kids will be engaged with other kids with the same interests. Being able to see that there are other people who like the things you like and feel the
things you feel is huge for building confidence and social skills at any age. School-age children suffer from a constant fear of being different or being exposed for who they really are. Here is a place where those unique differences can not only shine, but be applauded.
Your student can break out of his/her shell:
Shy children can progress to be more outgoing in their own time. There isn’t pressure in an aftercare setting like there is in a classroom. Usually, kids have their choice of what they want to do and teachers/aides are there to help give them a nudge. It’s a safe place where they can dip their toes into a social environment without getting thrown in. Sending kids on playdates because the parents think they need to socialize is totally understandable, but it’s practically a blind date for children. These programs are a less awkward and less overwhelming experience for them.
Your child can become more motivated and better behaved:
Improved behavior and motivation lead to stronger relationships. Aftercare programs will hold your child to a behavioral standard which he or she will need to abide. If a child is not accustomed to interacting with others or having to watch how s/he behaves, this is a setting where s/he can observe how others act and then hopefully learn from this in order to form better bonds with other children. Increased motivation will make the child more outgoing and more likely to participate in other social events and activities.
Older kids can benefit as well:
If you’re thinking, “oh yeah, like I can see my 15-year-old playing arts and crafts with his new friends” (sarcastic snarling voice), then just hear me out. It may take some convincing to get your son or daughter to attend these programs, but they are catered to kids of every age, and when your child gets there and sees other kids like them they might feel differently. Even if they are opposed at first, having the knowledge that they are in a structured setting will put your mind at ease–not wondering what they are doing home alone or at their friend’s house. And in this new setting, they are bound to meet new people who may subsequently help them to gain more positive character traits, which in turn will lead them to make better choices and lead a better life.
Read our previous blog post discussing tips for educators on what to do before a field trip! You can read it here
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This article is written by Lauren Bubb, an English Teacher at Frankfort-Schuyler Central Schools
To reach Lauren, please contact here.