Disclosure :: This post is sponsored by St. Martin’s Episcopal School.
5 Proven Strategies to Help Your Family Stay Positive Throughout the School Year
With the school year underway, now is a great time to implement strategies to help keep your family happy and stress-free throughout the year. Here are five proven ways to help your child be successful and maintain a positive mentality all year long.
If you don’t already, consider incorporating mindfulness into your family’s routine. A simple 10-minute daily meditation can do wonders for your child’s developing brain. Students who practice mindfulness show a decrease in anxiety and an increase in resiliency.
Here are a few user-friendly resources for mindfulness:
Guided Imagery Scripts – for relaxation
Mandalas are wonderful, and fun, tools for mindfulness
Headspace (mobile app)
Being proactive about homework can help prevent stress. Many studies show that parents who are anxious about a subject can negatively impact their child’s performance, which can lead to an overall increased anxiety toward the subject.
Creating a school-positive environment can help to alleviate anxiety toward a certain school subject. Rather than make statements such as, “That’s okay, I’m not good at math either,” parents can model “math behavior.” Show your teen how to calculate a restaurant tip or encourage a younger child to help count change for small purchases.
Keeping the lines of communication open with your child’s teacher is imperative to maintaining a positive and healthy school year. Also, here are a few tech tools that may help your family complete homework faster.
You may be surprised to know students don’t necessarily need to study more, but can benefit from distributing study time differently. Initiate the first day of studying and go back to the subject 1-2 days later. Repeating this pattern every few days helps the brain retrieve information more easily, and flags the content as something to be remembered.
The brain benefits from variation and periodic breaks. This school year, try a new approach to studying by “talking about it” and “spacing.” To talk about it, ask your young child to “play teacher” and self-test. Spacing study of one subject out by a few days helps prevent fatigue and increases memory retention (Study three times per week for 30 minutes rather than once for 90 minutes). Older students may benefit from using large stacks of flashcards. With more cards in a stack, more time passes before a student sees a repeat card. Larger stacks create more spacing.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep issues in students are most commonly due to limit-setting issues at home. It’s imperative that parents establish clear, set routines when it comes to evening rituals such as dinner, bath, and bed times.
One way to help children get more sleep is to remove all screens — cell phones, iPods, computers, television, etc. — from bedrooms. No matter what the child’s age, screens in the bedroom are too tempting and can lead to unhealthy sleep patterns.
There is a close association between sleep and a wide range of cognitive functions such as attention and memory. Executive functioning skills like planning and following directions are also heavily impacted by the amount of sleep that children get. The amygdala, which is responsible for emotional processes, is very sensitive to sleep deprivation. All evidence points to numerous cognitive gains simply by increasing and monitoring your child’s sleep patterns.
Teach Children Advocacy
Perhaps the most important tool we can teach our children is the ability to self-advocate, or let adults know of their physical, social, or academic needs. Physical needs include being tired or hungry, needing to use the restroom, or feeling ill, for example.
Here are some ways you can teach and emphasize advocacy with your child:
Physical advocacy: Allow your child to order for herself at restaurants; encourage eye contact.
Academic advocacy: If a problem with a teacher arises that can be solved via email, have a young child dictate an email to you by typing in his words. Or have an older child write the email and get your approval before sending.
Social advocacy: Practice role-plays or one-liners with your child. A favorite activity of mine is practicing “assertive comebacks.” Great examples of this are the bibliotherapy book Simon’s Hook, Dr. Borba’s website, and this short video by Rosalind Wiseman.
Help your child think through a problem by asking open-ended questions such as: “What do you want to happen? How do you think he feels? What do you think you’ll do first? What do you think he’ll say?” Then role-play the negotiation with your child before she makes her official attempt.
About Christina Heath, M.Ed., LPC, NCC :: Christina Heath is the George Cottage, Lower and Middle School Counselor at St. Martin’s Episcopal School. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and a National Certified Counselor (NCC), and is trained in Play and Art Therapy which she utilizes with children of all ages. She is also a counselor at the Challenges Summer Program. A New Orleans native and mother of two young children, she has a private practice located in Harahan.