Ways to Stay Focused When Spring Fever Hits
Introduce goal setting and set your child up for a successful end to the school year.
Set goals to offset distractions which typically increase later in the school year.
Spring is an exciting time for students. There is that long-awaited week of freedom, otherwise known as spring break. The weather is getting warmer and summer is on the horizon. This surge in positivity (and pollen) can cause the brain to take a mental hiatus and result in a case of spring fever. Symptoms may include:
- Inconsistent grades
- Forgetting to hand in homework
- Daydreaming in class
- Studying less
- Increased use of phone and screen time
Although the end of the school year is near, students will still have to face essential hurdles before crossing that finish line. Hurdles such as final exams, projects, or presentations, all of which will require that last boost of stamina in order to finish strong.
So how do we encourage our children to savor spring while reminding them to maintain healthy habits that will best equip them for this final push? We set goals!
Goal setting gives us permission to let go of the unrealistic expectation to fix every single issue and instead focus on one specific area that we are ready and willing to face. This process-based approach allows us to start small by creating achievable actions that make change feel less overwhelming. As we check off our accomplishments at the end of each day we experience a boost of achievement that motivates us to sustain and then build upon our goals.
Goal setting is valuable at any age, so I recommend introducing this as an activity in which the whole family partakes. Each member can create their own individual goal, and as an added bonus, you can even create one family goal that everyone works towards.
Now you might be asking, how do I motivate my child to set goals? Here is some advice I offer parents:
Schedule a time and place to hold this conversation. Providing advance notices gives everyone the time to mentally prepare instead of feeling caught off guard.
Prevent moody behaviors. Choose a time after everyone has already eaten and decompressed from the stress of the day.
Use inclusive language. Frame the conversation that “we” are all going to create goals because it is normal for “us” to lose focus during this time of the year. This creates a shared responsibility with the family and minimizes feelings of being singled out. When you show your child that you too have areas in which you want to improve, you normalize mistakes and can model ways to improve and learn from them.
Ask questions. Many children feel like they are being told what to do at school and at home. Answering open-ended questions develop their decision-making and critical thinking skills both of which increase their ability to be independent learners. Some examples of open-ended questions that will help generate quality goals:
- What have you done in the past to produce results you are really proud of in school?
- Which of those great habits has dropped from your routine that you think might make a positive difference in one of your classes?
- Which subject could benefit from an extra boost of attention? What’s one thing you want to do each night to provide that boost?
- What grade would you like earn on your next test in each subject? What’s one thing you want to do in each subject to help achieve that goal?
- What’s one thing I can do to support you?
Even out the playing field. Once you have asked your child questions, have them return the favor so you can generate your own goals. You can also provide your child with a list of questions to ask:
- What have you done in the past to produce results that you are really proud of at home or at work?
- Which of those great habits has dropped from your routine that you think might make a positive difference at home or at work?
- Which activity could benefit from an extra boost of attention?
- What’s one thing you want to do each day/night to provide that boost?
- What’s one thing I can do to support you?
Embrace silence. It can take longer to process information and generate answers when holding new types of conversations that involve self-reflection and vulnerability. Before you provide your child with additional guidance, take three extra-slow breaths. Sitting in silence can be incredibly difficult so come prepared with an activity that facilitates relaxation and patience. Some parents have chosen to knit, doodle or play with silly putty.
Write down your goals. Create a visual display of the conversation so that you are reminded of your goals each day. Create a list, or if you are artistic, make a fun and colorful poster to hang on the fridge.
Hold each other accountable. Families typically prefer a nightly or weekly check-in. Use this time discuss how the goals went, what worked, what did not work, and based on that discussion reset the goals. For example, if your child created a goal to spend 10 minutes each day re-reading their Spanish notes and that led to a great test score, they can choose to keep the same goal. They can also choose to create a new one based on the new struggles that are occurring for them that week.
Meet your child where they are. If your child wants to create a goal that is different than what you think they should work on, their idea takes precedence. When goal-setting, it is imperative to be the source of your own idea. This creates genuine ownership and investment.
Celebrate your wins. Reward yourself and acknowledge the steps you have taken each day. Simply sharing your accomplishment with a loved one or checking the completed tasks off of a list can do the trick. Some families provide small, medium, or large rewards to increase incentive on a nightly or weekly basis. Some families provide a large reward at the end of the school year. This is a personal preference.
Enjoy your springtime!
If you want to learn additional strategies that will benefit both you and your kids, check out these Summer Brain Boot Camps.