As the weather starts to warm up and the school year nears its end, our kids are squirming in their seats and are starting to lose their focus. Can we really blame them? For most of the year, we expect them to sit still in their seats, follow instructions and complete their homework on time. When they don’t succeed, kids may feel less confident or doubt their abilities, so keeping them on track can be a fine balance. What can we do to help our kids finish the school year off strong and move onto a well-deserved summer break? Here are a few tips to help you support your kids as the school year comes to a close.
1. Keep them organized: Whether it’s choosing color-coded file folders, a calendar app on their phone or tablet, an agenda or some other tool that helps keep your kid on track, figure out what it is and use it. As kids lose focus, staying organized is usually the hardest part of securing their success. No matter how great they may be at math, it doesn’t really count for much if they turn in their assignments late. Organization is also a key skill that will serve them well for the rest of their lives so it makes sense to start them on the right track young, with tools that help them fulfill their potential.
2. Keep them motivated: Staying motivated as the school year comes to an end can feel near impossible for a young energetic kid or teen, but finding ways to keep them focused on the task at hand is key to ensuring their success. The technique that I like best and that can be adapted for all ages, is to help your child focus on how good they’ll feel once the job is done. No matter how much they may want to avoid completing an essay or other project, the relief that they’ll feel when it’s done and the positive feedback they’ll get from their teacher and peers is what makes it worthwhile. Try reminding your child how they felt the last time they finished an assignment they were dreading so that they can look forward to feeling that good again.
3. Help them manage their anxiety: Even though they may seem nothing but excited about the school year coming to an end, anxiety is a natural reaction to any type of life transition. Going to a day camp with a new group of kids, the first summer at sleepaway or moving into a higher grade at school next year are all pretty big steps and can be anxiety-provoking for most kids and teens. Sometimes those nervous feelings can distract children from the task at hand and can make it hard for them to focus on their goals. Helping your child learn some effective coping skills, such as deep-breathing exercises, mindfulness and exercise can be a huge help in reducing the anxiety enough to get them back on track and finish the school year strong.
4. Give them a break: While it may seem counterintuitive, taking a break from any given task is sometimes the best way to get the job done well. When we try to force ourselves, or our kids in this case, to complete a task that they aren’t really focused on, the results are not usually very good. If you notice your kid itching in their seat or staring out the window to the sunny yard, let them blow off some steam for 15 minutes and then hit the refresh button. This technique will cause less frustration for mom and dad and ultimately for your child as well.
While some of the tools I wrote about today may seem obvious, you might be surprised on how often I see patients who struggle with watching their kids lose focus at this time of year. Each child is different, but these are some strategies that tend to work well and can be adapted for most ages. There is no cookie-cutter method, so try them each and see what works best for your family!
By Kira Batist-Wigod, LCSW, MPS-H