Week of 10/11/2021 – Welcome back to After School Tea Time! Take a look at what we’re spilling this week! We have questions from all over Connecticut, so grab your tea cups and get comfortable. This is the tea you don’t want to miss!
Question from Middletown– Our program has a long waitlist of kids and we are worried that we will not have enough staff now that we are in-person again. How can we hire more staff?
Answer: Nationally staffing in afterschool programs has been hard hit by the pandemic. There are a couple of strategies that I would recommend. First, are there any staff you currently have that are looking for more hours or responsibilities? Staffing shortages are tough, but also provide an opportunity to train staff that have the potential to step up. Could they take on a site-coordinator or other leadership roles to help free up your time for hiring and interviewing? Additionally, creating a sense of partnership between the school and afterschool program can be beneficial. Talking with the school principal or district administration about your staffing needs may open the door for teachers, para-educators, or other school faculty or staff to work in your program and create linkages between the school day and program. For more information on creating holistic partnerships between school and afterschool click here. Finally, the Afterschool Alliance has recently developed a hiring toolkit that can help with recruitment strategies, flyers and materials, and sample ads can give your program a head start on hiring new staff. You can also list job postings on the Connecticut After School Network website by contacting Marla Berrios at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your program name, job posting title, and description of the position you are looking for as well as contact information.
Question from Meriden– There is a child in our program who is really excited about being in-person again, but their enthusiasm has been overwhelming for the other kids. How do we explain to our kids that they cannot expect everyone to want to be friends with them or that not everyone will share the same excitement about being in-person?
Answer: Generally, it’s better to always tell a kid the truth. Some kids want to be friends with you and some won’t. That’s completely fine! Sometimes you will want to be friends with some kids but not others. I would give them this example: you have favorite toys to play with and you have some you don’t play with. Someone will always be around who will like to play with you because of the things you like. Younger children have a short attention span so your explanation should be short and sweet. This is also a great opportunity to work on social awareness and relationship skills. Recognizing emotions and empathizing with others is so important in building relationships. Perhaps the other child is feeling sad or just wants to be alone at the moment. It is important to teach children how to recognize these emotions and how to empathize. You can also work on active listening, team building, and conflict resolution skills. Check out our Pinterest boards for activities.
Question from Hartford– Some of our kids in our program are nervous about doing activities with each other. How do we manage kids who are having anxiety due to having to interact in-person again?
Answer: First, have you talked to the parents to find out if the child is anxious at home? If not and this is a social issue, then I would be patient with them. That doesn’t mean letting them disrupt or hurt anyone. The goal is to make them think about what is driving their emotions at the time. Anxiety is a feeling we are almost all familiar with, and knot in the stomach, tight shoulders or jaw, short breath, and beyond, and it can be a challenge for kids who may not recognize it right away. If it goes on for a while, you’ll definitely want to recommend connecting with someone specifically trained in supporting the mental health of children. Offering opportunities for that young person to connect with others and activities they like in your program can help them build more comfort and belonging. To read more about anxiety in youth check out this information page on anxiety from Child Mind that discusses types, causes and strategies for understanding and coping with anxiety. If you’re looking to understand more about anxiety and ways to address it for both youth and adults, check out this blog post from SEL4CT filled with links to more resources for both adults and children struggling with anxiety concerns.
We hope you enjoyed spilling some tea with us for our first After School Tea Time session! As always, if you would like to ask questions about anything related to after school, use this link. We can’t wait to spill even more tea with you in our next session!