After School Programs and Activities: They’re Important!
With the next school year on the horizon, many parents are considering whether or not to enroll their children in after school activities. Whether considering programs and activities offered through the school system, run by outside businesses, government agencies, or through charities or religious groups, the research is clear. Whether the program is Clarksdale’s nonprofit “Spring Initiative” or a church youth group, time and again, studies show that keeping kids busy after school is a good thing.
In 2015, the Afterschool Alliance — a Washington, DC based group — analyzed a number of research reports that studied the value of keeping kids busy outside school hours. In a nutshell, the Alliance found that overall, the studies show “quality afterschool programs have a positive impact” and that they positively affect “behavior and discipline” and aid in “relieving parents’ worries about their children’s safety.”
What this means is: there’s little downside to signing children up for activities, be it a sports team, learning or tutoring program, science program, lessons in theater, music, dance or drawing, or any other supervised activity that keeps brains working, bodies moving, and creative juices flowing.
In 2007, the Harvard Family Research Project examined youth participation in after school activities. This study found that overall, children from higher income families are more likely to participate in after school activities — such as lessons, clubs and sports — than are kids from poor families. The study showed a need for more programs aimed at at-risk children.
Adolescents with restrictive parents — or parents not involved with their children’s lives — were also less likely to participate after school. According to the study, results show uninvolved parents are less likely to engage in “supportive behaviors such as being involved in their children’s schools and setting rules for their children.” Restrictive parents are the ones known for setting “many rules but not providing academic or other forms of support.”
If you fall into any of these groups, it’s even more important to begin the search now for after school activities for your child. If you have less money to spend, you’ll be more limited. That’s fine, as there are still options available for low-income kids. However, it may take time to weed through the options and find something that works for you and your child.
If your parenting style is “uninvolved” or “restrictive,” don’t let that stop you from exploring programs that may “pick up the slack.” Parents can’t always “do it alone,” and professionals who run after school programs are there for just this very reason: to help moms and dads better care for their children.
There are many options, but start here with exploring these free or low-cost programs offered to Delta children:
Spring Initiative (Clarksdale) http://www.spring-initiative.org/
Boys and Girls Clubs of the Mississippi Delta (Clarksdale and Greenwood) http://www.bgcmsdelta.org/
YMCA (Greenville) http://www.ymcahcm.org/
The Refuge After School Program, by Salvation Army (Greenwood) http://salvationarmyalm.org/greenwood/after-school-program/
Kara Bachman is a writer, editor and married mom to two teens, ages 17 and 14.