What if you don't have a lot of after-school programs available in your community? Or maybe you simply don't have the money to keep your child enrolled in lots of activities. That's OK. There are plenty of things you can do at home to keep your child engaged and mentally active. Even if your child is a latchkey kid, it doesn't mean he or she can't have planned-out activities to do at home.
Whether your child comes home after school to an empty house, or if you're home with her or him, you need to have rules in order to keep a structured environment. Following are some examples of how families can manage after-school time successfully:
- Put up a list of rules where everyone in the family can see them. Go over the rules together periodically.
- Decide whether or not video games, television and DVDs are allowed.
- Help your children prioritize. Should homework be completed before anything else, or are there some chores that need to happen first?
- Prepare or let your child know what kind of snack he or she is permitted to have.
- Make a policy on whether or not your child can have friends over.
- If your child has regular chores, make sure a chore wheel or chart is posted as well.
- Ensure your child is completely clear on what appliances he or she is allowed to use (i.e, microwave -- yes, oven -- no).
The best way to ensure your children buy into rules for after-school time is to involve them in the decision-making process. Make a schedule together. This way you and your son or daughter will know that Tuesdays and Fridays are soccer days, Monday is dance class, Thursday is Hebrew school, and Wednesday is a free day. Feel free to consult with your child about how to best spend that free time. Remember that your kids don't need to be overscheduled -- it can stress them out a lot. Sometimes kids just need to be kids, so make sure that you leave them the time to do just that.
Most importantly, don't forget to schedule in family time. Today, everyone -- even kids -- is super-busy and constantly on the go. However, spending time as a family should be a priority. Even if it's just putting aside an hour each night to eat dinner together, make sure you and your child also add that to the schedule. Some families like to do game night or something similar a few times a month. It's a great way for everyone to reconnect.
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