As most working American parents and students prepare to return to in-person work and school, after a year plus of remote work and virtual learning, it begs the question for parents: How prepared are you to handle not only back to school, but also back to after school?
The impact felt from COVID-19 — whether it was a change in family dynamics of a parent or caretaker’s health, employment status or housing situation — were profound. This past year, youth were faced with limited peer and leader interactions due to virtual schooling, restricted extracurricular opportunities and minimal socialization.
According to a survey conducted by Boys & Girls Clubs of America, 75% of parents report that after-school time actually causes as much or more stress than in-school time. On top of that, layer the emotional impact of COVID-19 and it makes for a nerve-wracking start to the school year.
As we look to return to in-person learning, it’s imperative that we understand the social and emotional development associated with the 2021-2022 school year. Boys & Girls Clubs of America, an expert in youth development, is determined to send kids and teens back to school better than ever and offers these tips to help take the stress out of back-to-school season for parents this year.
Emphasize the importance of emotional development
Thanks to a multi-year partnership with Kohl’s, Boys & Girls Clubs of America is implementing programming at Clubs nationwide to promote and empower social and emotional development. After a stressful school day, kids and teens need mentors and trusted adults they can turn to in order to feel supported and better learn to cope with any challenges that may have come up during the day. Working parents aren’t always readily available right after school to talk to their child, so utilizing affordable after-school programs can alleviate stress for parents, knowing their child is with trained, trusted adults and mentors.
Create a safe space
Each day 11 million children and teens leave school with no place to go, increasing their risk of being unsupervised, unguided and unsafe in communities across the country, according to a 2014 Afterschool Alliance study. And, since juvenile crime escalates during the hours of 3-7 p.m. according to the U.S. Department of Justice, parents have cause for concern about how their children spend their time during these critical hours. Parents can stay focused at work and have peace of mind that their kids are safe and on a path to success when they know their child has arrangements for supervised, after-school care with trustworthy adult leaders.
Get active, get healthy
Increased screen time, more snacking and fewer outdoor activities among kids and teens became prevalent during the pandemic. In 2017-2018, obesity affected 14.4 million children and adolescents between the ages of two to 19 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fast forward to 2021 and pediatricians aren’t yet clear on how the pandemic has influenced the prevalence of obesity among kids. However, many note they’ve seen an increase in body mass index (BMI) among children. Physical activity and nutrition education are paramount now more than ever. After-school time offers the chance for young people to take part in sports and fitness activities that not only burn off pent-up energy but allow youth to build their self-esteem, reduce anxiety and learn good sportsmanship. Also, having kids help with snack or dinner preparation not only offers an extra hand in the kitchen but also teaches healthy cooking and eating habits.
Plan for consistent homework time
The pandemic-related learning loss is a huge stress for many parents. As parents and their children prepare to catch up after a year of virtual learning, keeping up with homework is a priority. According to Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s survey, nearly 60% of parents find it difficult to ensure their children are on a path to a successful school year. By making and sticking to a plan for how and when to tackle homework each day, parents and kids can make the most of after-school time. Whether it’s at home with support from a parent or guardian, at a tutoring facility or at a community organization with academic programming, such as a local Boys & Girls Club, setting aside a specific time and place for homework will avoid headaches for parents and children alike.
Focus on safe socializing
After more than a year of virtual learning, children and teens are itching to be with their friends again. Alternatively, some may also have some social anxiety when it comes to larger group settings. Either way, after-school time provides an opportunity for youth to interact with friends, build relationships, reengage with peer relationships and work on their social skills. Ensure your kids and teens have a balanced after-school routine that consists of time spent working on academics and time with friends.
Boys & Girls Clubs of America developed these tips based on the successful programs offered at their 4,700+ Clubs nationwide and supported by national partners like Kohl’s. However, any parent or caregiver looking to help their kids during the transition from virtual to in-person learning is encouraged to use these insights as a guide for a successful back-to-school season.