Avoiding Younger Teen After School Troubles

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I have a 16-year-old and am very worried about his use of time after school. He arrives home around 3:30. Everyone else (Mom, Dad, and 7 year old brother) return at 5:30. These 2 hours could be a perfect opportunity to get studying done, but I don't see it in his grades. I have tried to find somewhere that offers a program for high schoolers. I don't think any government programs are out there, but if so, I would love to find out about them. I am even interested if there are any establishments such as this that I could pay. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Part Time Job

How about finding him a part time job? The bookstore, grocery store, library, and even McDonald's usually have jobs tailored to the teens' schedule. You know exactly where he is and what he's doing and the job adds structure to his schedule and teaches responsibility.

Volunteer Work Time

My 13-year-old son is too old for aftercare, but I also didn't feel like leaving him home after school was as productive as it could be. During sports seasons this is less of a problem since he practices 4 days a week. With his enthusiastic approval, we signed him up to work at the school-associated daycare (where he went as a youngster) and he now totes garbage, wrestles with the 4-year olds, handles odd jobs and generally provides "brut strength" for the ladies who run the center. He also gains school service hours for his volunteer time, a requirement for graduation. Because he is a volunteer and non-involved in direct caregiving, his presence is allowed by licensing authorities. He loves it and so does the center. He's learning far more than he ever would at home in front of the TV!

Suggestions for Keeping Busy

As a probation officer in Family Court I know that those after school hours are the times when most kids get into trouble. Some of my suggestions:

  • Apprenticeship at a local business to explore future careers,
  • Put him in charge of dinner one or two nights a week. He'll need to learn to cook sometime.
  • Plant a garden and let him be in charge of the family's vegetables for summer
  • Find a subject he's interested in and encourage hands on experimentation. After all day in a class passively listening to teachers it is a great time to be action oriented by putting some of that learning into the practical mode. It'll increase grades as much as a nose in a book.
  • Give him other chores around the house to do so you'll know whether or not the work got done.

Always put in a small reward like inviting a friend over for the dinner he cooked, planning an activity for him, the family and a friend.

Seek Out Workable Solutions

Perhaps the teen could work at a non-profit social agency that has a full day daycare. We've had parents who've enrolled their teens as volunteer assistants. They come in and play with the kids, read them books, assist with puzzles, etc. Everyone wins. The teen is proud, the center can always use the extra hand, and the parents know that their teen is being supervised.

If preschool isn't his/her thing, maybe an elderly or handicapped facility might be. Also there are animal shelters, libraries, and more you can find by asking around. If you want to find who is receiving federal money to improve the lives of youth, call your county mental health board. They distribute the federal money and will have a list.

Sports as an Alternative

As parents of 4 teenagers, my dh and I have strongly encouraged all of them to take part in high school athletics. Practices usually run till 3:30 or sometimes later and they come home pretty beat. A shower, a snack and some down time on the couch will pretty much keep them out of trouble until the rest of the family comes home! Also, the school district requires they maintain at least a 2.0 GPA to be eligible for sports so the kids know they have to maintain grades to stay on the team.

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