Tips for School Success
OK, it’s been two weeks since school started, and things quickly have became chaotic with extracurricular activities, sports practices, homework, and more! Often it feels like there is not enough time in a day to get everything done. You know the feeling…. meetings, tests, deadlines and new projects. This new time crunch can lead to increased stress and anxiety, for kids and parents alike. Whether your child is in elementary, middle, high school, or college — each level presents different challenges. It can be very overwhelming to think about everything at once, but applying some helpful tips can keep everything more manageable for kids and parents alike. Here are a few strategies that promote school success and reduce school anxiety:
1. Get Organized
For kids, being organized may seem like a large task, but it doesn’t have to be. Starting with a good paper management system is a top priority. Instead of using separate spiral notebooks for each subject, consider getting everything in one place. Some kids like binders with tabs and hole-punched paper for each subject, while some kids prefer accordion file-based systems. Whatever it is, make sure that your child has a good system for “traveling paper”.
Second, have a planner or agenda for writing down tasks and due dates in a centralized location. If you have an older teen or college student, encourage them to make reminders on their phone or use their phone calendar. If keeping up with a paper planner is not your style, then try out an app that your teen is more likely to look at on your phone (good apps are Trello, Wunderlist). Record all important upcoming dates with reminders a few days earlier so that project deadlines don’t sneak up. It is also important to review or at least glance at whatever form of calendar or planner you choose. Writing something down but then never checking what you have written down is counterproductive. A white-board calendar in a central location or near your child’s desk can also be helpful.
2. Create Good Study Space
Optimizing concentration and focus is also essential for school success. One of the most effective ways to stay focused is to find space to study or do work with limited distractions. Returning to a designated homework space signals to your brain that it’s time to work when in this area. This space should only contain what you need to study and nothing you do not need. For example, if you don’t have to use your laptop or phone to study class material, then don’t have those attention grabbing items nearby when doing school work. Find a desk, table or other comfortable spot for studying. Keep in mind that listening to music while studying can be helpful for some kids–don’t rule it out all together. But if it seems to be more of a distraction, encourage them to turn it off.
3. Take Breaks & Down time
Since many assignments and textbooks are online these days, setting timers can help keep your child on task. Taking small breaks about 10-30 minutes when studying for large periods of time keeps the mind fresh and ready to concentrate on new information. Set a timer to keep up with breaks and how long they’ve been working. Lastly, reward your child when they meet goals or stays focused for the designated amount of time. Rewards reinforce positive studying habits!
Time management is essential for adolescents and adults. However, often with all the activities, we forget to plan for “downtime” or time to recharge. Make sure you set aside time each week to reconnect with your family, either over a meal or playing a game or just chilling out. Having built in downtime is a key component to reducing school stress and anxiety.
4. Keep it Positive
Encourage your child or teen to focus on positives. While not always easy to do, having a more positive thinking about studying can make the process more effective. Instead of focusing on the negatives and making comparisons to peers, reminding your child of their own unique abilities and talents in order to improve their mindset. Some times kids can get caught in a cycle of negative thinking , like “I’m going to fail. I always do badly in this class”. The way we approach a challenge affects how likely we are to succeed or not. Thinking more positively about past challenges you have overcome or what you have learned from mistakes in the past instead of thinking about what can go wrong will set up success. Have your child think of a time in the past when they faced a difficult challenge but made it through.
If your child or teen is stuck in a cycle of negative thinking about school or studying, reaching out to a child or teen counselor can help move things forward. Taking care of school anxiety can promote school success. Sometimes there are also other social or emotional factors that may be impacting school performance that a counselor can help with. Call or email Wellview Counseling if you would like to know more about how we can help students and families achieve their goals for the school year.
About the Author
Emily is one of the caring therapists at Wellview Counseling. If your child is struggling with the back to school transition, Emily would love to help!