As youth development professionals who work afterschool, we know what the shift from the school day to the Club day can be like.
Transitions are something we all do multiple times a day, and they can either smoothly help us experience the richness of the full Club program, or they can be a breakdown that requires stopping and starting and ruins the flow. What do I mean by transitions? I’m glad you asked.
It may not come naturally to us as adults to plan for transitions, because we think well, just go from one place to another it’s not that big of a deal. But for many young people, particularly those with emotional or developmental issues such as ADHD, anxiety, autism, or sensory processing issues, transitions can be difficult. And that difficulty can quickly spread to others and spiral out of control.
Because so many transitions occur during the Club day, we here at BGCA knew it was a time we needed to address. In the brand new Transitions Playbook, which is part of the Program Basics Suite, there are a TON of tools to use, both for Program or Club Directors and Youth Development Professionals. Tools like
- Transition planning tables
- Tips for warnings and visual or audio cues
- Ways to build routines as youth arrive and as they leave the Club
- How to build Transition Agreements with youth
- Games to help youth transition between programs
- Emotional check-ins
- Ways to engage guardians and caregivers at pickup
- AND MORE!
The great thing about Playbooks is that they are designed to be picked up and used straight away. With a little bit of intentionality, you and your Club colleagues can put the routines into place that will help transform your transitions.
One of my favorite tools in the Transitions Playbook is the list of five calming activities to decrease energy levels. When young people are entering the Club or Youth Center after school or even early in the morning during summer, they can be FULL of energy. Also, when youth are in the gym or gamesroom before transitioning to lower-energy activities – such as homework time, arts, or the computer lab – it can be hard to calm down. These five quick and easy activities can help get young people centered and ready for whatever you have planned. (And, I’m going to add a BONUS sixth activity at the end! Shhhhhh don’t tell my colleagues who wrote this. 😉 )
Dim the Lights
- Before youth enter the activity area, dim the lights or turn them off.
- Speak to youth in a quiet, peaceful voice.
- Entering a dark space will help children to relax, calm down and lower their energy levels.
- Before youth enter the activity area, play slow, relaxing music.
- Instrumental music without lyrics and music with slow beats is best for calming youth people and lowering energy levels.
Yoga and Stretching
- Simple yoga moves and stretching exercises lower energy levels. Find some ideas here.
- It also increases mindfulness and helps youth relax as they enter an activity area.
Follow this script for a mindful-awareness deep-breathing exercise:
- “To begin, I want you to lie down on the floor. Rest your hands by your side, palms down. Lie very still and close your eyes.”
- “I will count to help you to know when to breathe in and out. When breathing in, fill your lungs completely – imagine filling a big balloon full of air. When breathing out, empty your lungs completely.”
- “Inhale 1 – 2 – 3 and hold. Exhale 3 – 2 – 1 and hold.” (Repeat this multiple times.) “Relax, and notice only your breath. Let’s take one more deep breath, 1 – 2 – 3, hold it, and now slowly exhale, 3 – 2 – 1. Now open your eyes and sit up slowly.”
- “How do you feel? Are you relaxed and calm? If you are ever in a situation where you start to feel frustrated, tense or upset, you can use this breathing exercise to help you become calm.”
- Prompt youth to sit comfortably in their chairs.
- Tell them to think about how each body part feels, starting with their toes and moving slowly toward their heads. Tell them to think how heavy it feels, how it pulses or moves, and how warm or cold it is.
- Prompt youth to take deep, rhythmic breaths and do their best to clear their minds – they can close their eyes if they wish.
- Once a few minutes have passed and everyone has had time to go through each body part, end the exercise by saying “Notice the feeling of being connected to your body. Take comfort in this moment. A body scan can help manage stress and bring awareness to your body. This is something you can easily do at your desk at school without drawing attention to yourself if you ever need a moment to relax.”
Read-Alouds (Sarah’s bonus idea!)
- Welcome young people into the program space, and invite them to sit comfortably where they can see you.
- Open the program session by reading a book aloud. For younger youth, choose a picture book, being sure to hold the pictures so that all can see. For older youth, choose an age-appropriate chapter book. You can find lots of suggestions by searching the Read-Alouds tag here on the ClubX Blog.
- Always take a moment to reflect. Ask youth open-ended questions about how they think about the content of the reading, what they enjoyed, and how it made them feel.
To download a printable version of these activities, click here. Boys & Girls Club staff can download the entire Transitions Playbook here, and find all of the Program Basics suite here.
What are your favorite activities to decrease youth energy? Do you have any top tips for managing transitions well? Comment below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email ClubXBlog@bgca.org to share?