After-school activities can be an inexpensive way for students to participate in fun and interesting activities. However, with many programs not having transportation readily available, it can be a daunting task for working parents to get kids home afterwards without breaking the bank.
Additionally, many children can feel anxious at any change in their routine, especially if the change is without their parents present. Below are a few tips on how to make transportation easier for both parent and child.
It may sound surprising, but many parents fail to ask the program (whether it’s run by the school, YMCA, etc.) about their transportation options. With numerous kids needing the service, many programs follow suit and can provide transportation on their own. PA/PTA programs, communities, and parent associations may have an active website, Facebook page, or forum where you can network as well.
If your child has a friend in the program or if you know the parents of a child in the program, it may be advantageous to speak to them about developing a system to get kids to and from the program. Likewise, there are many pro-active parents who often volunteer to drive kids who have no other transportation options. This is also an excellent time to introduce yourself to neighbors and families along the route who may also be in need of transportation.
If you are having a family member, friend, or neighbor drive your kids to their programs, be sure the school has a system in place to correctly identify which driver is authorized to pick up which child. In New York, there is a “blue card" system in public schools that identifies adults who are authorized by parents to pick up children.
This may sound extreme, but many employers are aware of the needs of today’s parents and can often offer flexible hours. So for example, if you offer to come in early, your boss may let you leave early in order to pick up your child.
Is your child old enough to walk or bike home from the after-school program? This can be a great option for lessening your stress while enhancing their fitness. Try walking or biking with your child the first few times so that you are confident she knows the route. You’ll also be able to see if the route is safe and does not enter bad areas of town or dangerous hazards like train tracks or highways. Be sure and have a contingency plan in the case of bad weather.
Kids going on foot or bikes can be supervised by older children who may have younger siblings are and are going to the same after-school program.
Does your city have a subway, light rail, or other mode of public transportation? Accompany your child on the first trip to show her how to be safe on public transit systems, how to pay, and how to identify individuals, such as public employees, transit officers, and even friendly women with children, who can help if she gets in trouble. You can also wait for your child at certain checkpoint or even follow her to see how she does.
Many businesses are aware of the need for after-school transportation and offer the service privately. A simple online search for “after-school transportation" in your area can yield some interesting results.
If your kids and their friends still can’t find transportation, it may make sense for them to split a cab. There are even many new providers like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar that are substantially less expensive than traditional cabs and allow you to learn more about the person driving your children before they are picked up.
Identify locations on the route with your child that can be considered safe zones should a transportation issue arise. This may be a convenience store, gas station or fire station, pharmacy, or even the home of a trusted neighbor.
If your child has a cell phone, be sure she knows how to use it to call for help. You can also get location apps that can be turned on and off so you know if your child is sticking to her route. Be sure and have emergency numbers like local police, 911, and at least two emergency contacts in their phone. Remind them that all valuables including cell phones, tablets, and laptops should be kept out of the sight of strangers.
Just remember to be creative and think outside the box when coming up with solutions for transportation to after-school programs, and of course always find out as much as possible when letting others drive your children.
Check this link for more articles on after-school programs.