The New Year is officially here! The holidays of 2020 are finished and many of us have been ready for the fresh start 2021 has to offer.

As there have been many trials presented to us throughout the last year, our community has pivoted to provide safe learning and social environments for our youth.

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Sierra Cain

As our youth are navigating the changes in their professional, educational and social lives, there becomes an increased importance in developing positive youth experiences. Positive youth development is a critical component in the overall growth of children and teens and can be reached in many different ways.

Many of our children’s school routines have turned to a relatively stable home and virtual setting. Youth may be struggling being at home without a change of scenery or a physical schedule school environment provides. Developing a home routine for your children and teens can help them succeed at school and provide a steady working atmosphere.

Pediatric psychologist Kathryn Jones explains when developing a daily schedule, include your children in the tasks at hand. Allowing youth to pinpoint some of the activities they need to accomplish, helps them be in control of their own time while being productive.

This doesn’t mean they need to set their alarm in the morning at the same time they would to be ready for regular school. But providing a sense of normalcy and task achievement can help our youth not only in virtual school, but set the foundation for being productive adults.

Remember to include breaks in schedule planning as it is important for social development and as a creative outlet for our children and teens. Allowing time for our youth to interact with their friends or work on a fun project can aid in the time spent away from social youth circles and provide a chance for self-expression.

As a 4-H/Youth Development agent, I always recommend signing youth up for extracurricular activities so they have a variety of items to accomplish and learn when they are on break between school and home life. While many of our programs are virtual for the time being, youth are able to interact and work on projects through different delivery methods.

Youth in 4-H can sign up and participate in more than 200 projects offered in a variety of program areas, such as baking, jewelry making and photography. Animal husbandry and showing is also a large part of 4-H. Youth can work on indoor and outdoor projects through the spring and summer months when they are on their school breaks.

Reminding our youth to get a good night’s rest is also important in their success in sticking to a schedule as well as stabilizing moods and attitudes. Dr. Jones recommends starting to wind down when it is getting close to a scheduled bedtime.

Avoiding phone and screen time can aid in falling asleep easier as you are reducing your exposure to blue light and stimulation. Also having youth do their work in a separate space than their relaxing space, such as their bed, can help with their ability to associate their bed with sleep.

Keeping a good attitude for our youth will help in their positive youth development as well. Our children and teens are watching and listening to how we react and feel about our environments and experiences.

If we build our youth up to having a great and prosperous 2021, they can start out with a positive approach. Overall, creating a schedule and environment for positive youth development allows our children and teens thrive.

Program announcements

To register for an upcoming program, call the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service at 565-3002. For more information, visit valenciaextension.nmsu.edu.

• 4-H Youth Open Enrollment: Through Jan. 15. New member registration information can be found on the Valencia County Extension website. For more information on the Valencia County 4-H program, call the Extension Office or email Sierra Cain at sierragh@nmsu.edu.

• Valencia Community Wellness Council 100 percent Community Survey and the Anna Age 8 Institute would like to learn about your experiences getting access to medical care, childcare, job training, transportation, housing, and more. The survey will ask about how easy or difficult it is to get these services and the types of challenges you face.

The results will be used to make recommendations to our city and county officials and community organizations so that we can improve the quality of life in our county. Visit ValenciaSurvey100, or contact Sierra Cain at sierragh@nmsu.edu for more information and link access.

• 2021 Valencia Extension Master Gardner (VEMG) Program: Applications and payments are due Monday, Jan. 22. Classes begin Monday, Feb. 8. More information and the cover letter can be found on the Extension website or by contacting Lynda Garvin at lgarvin@nmsu.edu.

If you are an individual with a disability who requires auxiliary aid or service to participate in a program, please contact the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service Office at 565-3002 two weeks in advance of the event.

(Sierra Cain is the Valencia County 4-H/Youth Development agent for the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service.)

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