December 22, 2015

Make the most of winter break: relax, reflect, and plan ahead

Most students look forward to their winter breaks throughout the entire fall semester. Winter vacation serves as the finish line after a long marathon of tests, projects, and papers. While school vacations should always be used to rest and recharge, there are many uses of break time than can be productive for students in the long-run. Using break to look ahead, set goals, get organized, or explore new ideas are just a few ways to make the most of days off. Consider the following tips and suggestions to have both productive and restful December break:

  1. Encourage Self Care and Stress Management: Most parents and tutors report distinct changes in their students’ behaviors as the end of the semester arrives. Students are frantic, unfocused, overwhelmed, and sometimes discouraged. So, when vacation arrives, allow your child to indulge and focus on taking care of himself for a while. Spend a weekend sleeping in, relaxing with a favorite movie, or playing games as a family. Encourage your child to see his friends and enjoy social interactions he may have postponed during the semester. Vent built up frustrations, take deep breaths, and share some laughs.
  2. Reflect and Make Changes: Since the spring semester is often a clean slate for students, winter break is a great time to reflect on fall semester progress. Your child can put past obstacles behind him and start new, but should not forget about areas of difficulty or reasons why he struggled. Taking the time to reflect can enable him to make productive changes when he returns to school in January. Your child and his executive function coach can set goals together, deciding which tools and strategies should stay in his repertoire, and which ones need tweaking or replacing.
  3. Calendar Sooner Rather Than Later: As your child begins to set goals for the future, invite him to transfer his plans and activities into his assignment notebook or onto a long-term calendar. Calendaring over winter break is an easy (and sometimes fun!) activity that can make an immense difference once the regular grind is back underway. He won’t need to do as much planning later, and he’ll already have goals and to-do lists at the ready when classes reconvene.
  4. Gather supplies and get organized: When one semester finishes, students often need to replace notebooks, file away old study guides, and make decisions about what stays in their binders and what goes in the trash. Winter break is the perfect opportunity to get organized for the future and to make room for incoming assignments. Determine a place where your child can store all of his notes and study materials for future reference, and be sure to label their subjects, units, and topics. When finals arrive in a few short months, your child will be grateful that he took the time to gather and order his supplies.
  5. Get caught up: After taking time to reflect and reorganize, your child may realize that he has fallen behind in a few subjects. If he has incomplete work still lingering, winter break provides a great opportunity to fill in gaps in his knowledge. Set goals together to have your child re-read chapters of novels or textbooks that he missed or skimmed over too hastily. Fill in blank workbook pages, create flashcards to add to his arsenal, or complete extra credit if it is still available. Getting caught up will help your child feel confident and increase his ability to engage fully with second semester content.
  6. Get ahead: Previewing, a popular strategy used by executive function coaches, involves looking ahead to future assignments to gain familiarity with what lies ahead. Previewing upcoming material can help many students approach their new semesters with confidence and control. Some students may even discover that their teachers have posted assignments online that they can start (or even finish!) before classes resume. Feeling ahead of the game can help students receive the boost they need to carry-out strong follow-through habits all semester long.

Vacations are designed for resting, but they can also be productive. Incorporate rest with a bit of self-care, reflection, planning, and goal-setting to make the most of the holiday break.