January 14, 2016

Eight tips for an awesome second semester!

In the second and third weeks of January, many students resist the transition back to school with all their might, finding mid-January to be one of the toughest times of year. If your child is still wishing for the days of Netflix and holiday dinners, try these tips at home to help your student get back on track:

  1. Remind Your Child What Works: At Engaging Minds, we conduct Mid-Year Reflections to help students remember what they have learned thus far and to celebrate their progress. Reflections, especially at the mid-year point, can be a great way to jump-start task initiation and make transitions a little easier. When your student is resistant to his school work, or feeling lost about where to begin, remind him of the strategies he used successfully throughout the fall. When your child uses his tools correctly, and supports himself with strategies that work, he’ll be less likely to feel overwhelmed by homework, tests, and quizzes.
  2. Set Goals for the Second Semester: As part of our Mid-Year reflection, EM instructors also focus on setting goals for their future work with students. Parents can help reinvigorate their child’s motivation by enacting a similar process. Engage your child in goal-setting and ask him what he wants to achieve. Consider what skills might make him feel ready for “the next step,” such as starting high school next year, or finishing the 7th grade in a strong way. Using those end goals as a starting point, work backwards to develop some realistic steps he can take to reach those milestones.
  3. Maintain Consistency: In order to establish a new rhythm, consistency is key. Usually, during your child’s first week back at school, his teachers ease their students back into “the grind” with review and a lighter schedule overall. But, by the second and third weeks of classes, work returns to its usual pace, and your child must do the same. Don’t let him indulge in a vacation-style schedule! Now is the most important time to enforce regular house rules, homework schedules, timeliness, and rigor. With some repetition and practice, his “amped-up” workload will become his new norm.
  4. Model Effective Work Habits and Time-Management: Modeling good behaviors yourself can lead to stronger and more consistent habits in your children. When mom reads every night before bedtime, that routine is more likely to be adopted by the child. The same goes for watching TV after dinner, for example. Because modeling is so powerful, and children learn a significant amount from observation, using modeling at home is an excellent way to signal to your child that his regular routine has returned. Model time-management skills by sticking to time-bound plans and arriving for engagements on time. Show your child that you know your way around an agenda book or calendar. Soon, your child will follow your example and you’ll both be satisfied with the result.
  5. Double-down on Planning and Scheduling: It’s easy to feel lackadaisical while longing for a return to vacation time. For students, lowered levels of enthusiasm often result in small “slip-ups,” forgetfulness, and disorganization. To prevent faulty planning and preparation, provide your student with a little extra support in the scheduling department. Remind them where they are going and what they need to bring. Help them pack their backpacks the night before school to prevent rushing in the morning. You might even post a family calendar in a visible place in your home to reinforce strong planning skills.
  6. Encourage Healthy Sleep Habits: Winter, with its limited sunshine and long evenings, has the tendency to disrupt regular “circadian rhythms,” otherwise known as the body’s natural sleep clock. When the skies get dark at 4pm, our bodies prepare for sleep, long before many students finish their homework or extracurriculars. Student always need sufficient and regular sleep, but January is an especially critical time for developing brains to receive adequate rest. Help your child stick to a regular bedtime and watch them tackle their schoolwork with heightened energy and confidence.
  7. Prioritize Stress Management: In last week’s blog, “Breaking News: The Teen Stress Epidemic,” we broke down common causes of teen stress, typical responses to stress, and some solutions to help students reduce stress through executive function training. As your child starts the new semester, which often plunges them right into midterm exams, projects, and presentations, stress levels can raise quickly and suddenly. Make stress relief a priority, using a balance of work and break time, a schedule that supports your child’s goals, and an emphasis on self-care. For an extra boost, join for one of our upcoming parent workshops, entitled “Strategies for Reducing Academic Stress and Creating Successful Students,” offered the last week of January and the first week of February! Details are on our website homepage.
  8. Start Fresh: If the fall semester was tough for your student, encourage him to start fresh. Students have a tendency to carry old habits and negative self-perceptions with them from term to term. Use the new start to talk about a fresh chance to prove his work ethic and academic prowess. Explain how your child can use the rest and perspective he gained over winter break to propel him forward, support his achievement, and take on new, fulfilling challenges.

January blues are tricky to avoid, but your child can overcome the obstacles of the new semester with the right support at home and with effective tools to support motivation and learning.