Studies show that kids who are involved with community and public service develop better relationships with their parents and peers, do better in school, avoid risky behaviors, and maintain a positive attitude. The hours that you are not at home, or your kids are out with their friends, could be the very same hours they are experiencing drugs or alcohol for the first time.
It is very important that you know where your children are, who their friends are, and what they are doing at all times. It is also critical to keep an open communication line with their friends’ parents. It makes it easier, however, when your children are involved in activities—when they aren’t bored and actually have something productive and fun to do.
According to the Urban Institute, the hours between 3 and 6 after school are the peak time for juvenile crime and experimentation with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and sex. In fact, according to the YMCA, “Teens who do not participate in after-school programs are nearly three times more likely to skip classes or use marijuana or other drugs; they are also more likely to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes and engage in sexual activity.”
Involving your children can teach them powerful lessons about the value of community, responsibility, respect, teamwork, and avoiding peer pressure.
Where to Begin
The easiest place to find involvement is in your child’s school. Extracurricular activities can include marching band, sports, art clubs, drama club, and book clubs. These activities also look good on college applications and shows school involvement.
Another great place to look is in your local place of worship. Many churches, mosques, or temples have youth programs that teach the values of reaching out and helping others.
You should also check your community. Here are some great programs that have spread throughout the United States.
The Boys and Girls Club
They have a variety of different programs for youths such as:
- Education and career programs
- Character and leadership programs
- Health and life skills initiatives
- Arts programs
- Sports, fitness, and recreation clubs
Their mission is “To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.”
The YMCA has a long history with programs that focus on youth, healthy living, and social responsibility. They offer:
- Child care
- Youth camps
- Educational classes
- Recreational activities
- Fitness centers
- Family-oriented activities
- Various group interest clubs
- Social services
They also focus on values such as volunteerism, cultural diversity, and advocacy.
Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities is a great youth sports program that features many different leadership, educational, and life-skills classes. RBI is a partner with the Boys and Girls Club of America and is also sponsored by Major League Baseball. Kids learn about the game and have a chance to gain leadership and team skills. They can also participate in any number of classes:
- Breaking Barriers: In Sports, in Life, a multicultural character education program developed by Major League Baseball
- BGCA’s SportSMART! program, a condensed version of BGCA’s award-winning SMART Moves program designed to assist young people in learning how to resist alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and premature sexual activity
- KPMG’s Fair Ball, an interactive ethics and integrity course
- KPMG’s Skills that Pay the Bills, a basic business principles course
- KPMG’s Keeping the Books, a personal finance skills course
- KPMG’s Career Course, an online system helping RBI participants determine their strengths for college majors and potential career paths
The Police Athletic League is an after-school program that was specifically designed to offer alternatives to violence, gang involvement, and substance abuse. They offer recreation, homework help, sports activities, and community service to kids whose parents are not home after school. Here are just a few of their programs, which vary depending on the community:
- Camps over holiday breaks
- Girl Power, which helps girls develop social skills
- Homework club
- Ice hockey
- A night program with swimming, sailing, movies, and games
- Summer sports camp
- Youth leadership programs
These are not your only avenues. Check your community boards or city website for activities, such as community gardens and sports leagues. There are also many nonprofit organizations that need volunteers.
While you want your kids to stay busy, be mindful not to overload them with activities! Find a balance that works and spend time with them as a family. You are ultimately the biggest influence on their lives.
Don’t forget about Livefree! We strive to be a useful resource for parents and a strong advocate for community involvement and a drug-free lifestyle. Visit our website by clicking here.