By Jonathan Hoffenberg, PACES programme manager at the Parent Centre
When one thinks of the prevalence of single parents or two-income households, it’s not always possible for a parent to fetch the children after school. For many, aftercare is not a nice to have it has become a must-have. But there is a wide range of benefits to kids participating in aftercare. It can create a sense of belonging in young children and help them to learn healthy social skills, which play a pivotal part in building their self-esteem. All while in a safe and nurturing environment.
And depending on the type of after-school care a parent selects for their child, whether it’s the aftercare provided by the school or an outside-based after-school program, they can tailor the benefits according to what their child needs. For example, sports activities are great for both physical and social development. Arts& cultural activities foster creativity and self-expression, while more academic-based after-school programs can be the building blocks to educational success, especially if it specializes in an area in which a child needs further guidance.
Below are a few more reasons to consider enrolling your child in aftercare:
- Aftercare is more informal than school and is a good place to have your child meet other children and families with other beliefs and ways of doing things. As a child grows it is important that they realise that change and diversity are normal and that the reality or culture of one’s home may not be shared with others. It acts against a bias of universalism, encourages multiculturism, and encourages critical and self-reflective thought. This all contributes to a well-balanced and free-thinking child.
- Aftercare may be able to offer far more experiences and activities than the home, thereby giving your child a richer developmental experience.
- Aftercare staff are often able to see your children in an objective light and can pick up on issues that may be missed at home. Core muscle weakness, posture, learning issues, and behavioral issues are often picked up in aftercare. OT intervention is more effective the earlier it starts.
- Primary School children have a limited energy level and are often too tired to do homework in the evenings. Good aftercare offers homework support and enables parents to just play the role of the parent in the evenings and not have to be tutoring and supervising.
If you’re having hesitancies about aftercare, debating whether it’s right for your child, or you’re just not sure how you or your child can manage the transition, consider these points:
- Parents may worry about the long separation with aftercare. Children are resilient and can deal with separation, even though it may be harder for some children because of their temperament, personality, and environment. However, how well they cope depends on the relationship and the quality of the time the parent and child spend together afterward. Parents should be mindful that when they meet for the first time in the evenings, the child’s dominant need is to connect. Making yourself available for this, may eliminate nagging and acting out.
- Being away from home takes a child out of their comfort zone for an extended period of time, so when they get home, they may want to let go and release the pent-up emotions of the day. Parents can expect some grumpiness, crying, and acting out. Put something in place to help them deal with their emotions. Acknowledging feelings by saying something like “ It’s been a long day, I can see that you are tired and missed us,” could help them feel understood. Refrain from shouting, putting down, or punishing.
- Some children will take longer to adapt to not only aftercare but all the changes that a new year brings like a new teacher, new class, new classmates, new expectations, etc. Be empathic and encouraging. They can face challenging situations if they can count on our support.
- Ultimately self-esteem and confidence are linked to a healthy parent-child relationship. If you are uncertain what this entails, do a parenting course, read parenting books, or see a parenting counsellor.
You can also visit www.theparentcentre.org.za for more information.