April 15, 2015

Beat spring fever and finish strong

Spring is finally here, and with it comes beautiful weather, school dances, graduations, April vacations, and endless other (incredibly fun) distractions for students. So, as the weather gets warm, and spring fever officially hits, it’s especially important for parents and educators to double their efforts in helping children stay focused, maintain their motivation, use their executive function skills, and succeed through the end of the year. Students, too, need to try a little harder to keep their eyes on their books, especially when the great outdoors and summer months are calling.


New York Times writer Michael Freitag breaks down the science of “spring fever,” asserting that it is not only real, but also very powerful. He cites Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal’s research on the body’s physiological response to the increased intensity and duration of sunlight we experience in early springtime. Freitag notes that, “Each year at this time,” when April arrives and the temperature finally cracks 50° F, “millions of people across the upper half of the Northern Hemisphere begin to feel more energized [and] upbeat, if somewhat distracted.” Our brains rejoice (spring is here!), but the excess energy can lead to restlessness, distraction, procrastination, and irresponsibility, even in the most diligent students.

However, Matthew Keller, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, lends a positive spin to the effects of spring fever: “Sunny days and warm weather seem to boost mood and have a broadening effect on cognition, basically opening the mind to new ideas.” Thus, with the right tools and support, students have a real opportunity to grow, springing forward in leaps and bounds.

Breaking the Fever

To calm distractions and break the spring fever, teacher, parents, and educators can apply a few easy changes to their student’s spring goals and schedules. Specifically, an executive function coach can help students apply many of these tools to build their self-monitoring, organizational, and motivational skillsets throughout the spring. Here are some insights from doctors, teachers, writers, and parents who have discovered some spring fever cures:

  1. Encourage “spring cleaning” in your child’s study space. Clear her desk together, get rid of or file away old material, and reduce general clutter to help your child stay focused on the assignment at hand. You might even assemble a filing system together to help store important notes and assignments in preparation for final exams.
  2. Plan ahead and set new and challenging goals. With excess energy comes increased ability to take on bigger and better goals. April is a great time to challenge your student tobeat her personal best on assignments. With this challenge in mind, you or your child’s tutor can help her create a to-do list, with short-term and long-term deadlines, before she starts a new quarter, plans a lengthy project, or sits down to study. Once she’s reached a goal, remind her to reward her hard work and achievement.
  3. Study in the shade outside. Don’t let the weather work against your student! Working outside can, in many ways, help your child stay relaxed, refreshed, and thoughtful about her work. Being relaxed clears the mind so it can absorb information. Have your child move to the patio to study and to enjoy the warm weather simultaneously.
  4. Keep healthy snacks on hand.  With proper fuel, your child can improve her  ability to maintain mental alertness, stay focused, and retain information. Apples, nuts, whole grains, berries, or dark chocolate are a few ideas.
  5. Exercise before studying. If your child seems restless or distracted, suggest a short bike ride or a walk with the dog before starting homework.  Exercising consistently, especially before sitting down to think, will help your child think more clearly, maintain positivity, and apply their excess energy appropriately, without distraction.
  6. Take more movement breaks. It’s always important for students to incorporate study breaks into their homework schedule. And- some of the best study breaks include movementor exercise. Moving around, after a long stretch of motionless studying, pumps re-oxygenated blood to the brain and refreshes fatigued minds.
  7. Remember the big picture. When your child is feeling unmotivated, remind them what they have been working toward and how far they have already come this school year. Sometimes, it just takes a little perspective to combat spring fever and keep things on track.

With the right plan in mind, your child can beat spring fever, build their executive functions through planning and organization, and reach new heights in their academic achievement. Spring is a time of intensive growth in nature, and can be a period of growth for your child, too.