There are about 50 school days remaining this academic year and if you are not sure of the exact numbers of days left, I can almost guarantee that your child knows that number! As the school year comes to an end, days are getting warmer and the sun is shining brighter, it can be difficult for your student to remain focused and attentive to tasks in his or her classroom. This often leads to boredom, frustration and poor task completion. Here are a few strategies that may help your child overcome this spring time slump and finish strong this school year:
-Kick start your child’s day with a filling breakfast and provide healthy snacks whenever possible. With Valentine’s Day in February and Easter quickly approaching your child most likely has an endless supply of small, pastel colored candy available to him or her. While an occasional treat is not a problem, kids who are only eating candy as snacks may crash and have it impact their focus and mood throughout the day. Working to decrease processed sugar and increase fresh foods in your child’s diet can help reduce sugar spikes that deter focus and can provide natural energy for your child throughout the day. Here are some great ideas for creative snacks for your kids that are low in sugar and will help them be less distracted throughout their day
-Prioritize outside play time after school. This will provide an outlet for your child’s energy that was not used during the school day, gives them something to look forward to after a successful day at school and can help them sleep better as exercise during the day can be a key part of a healthy sleep routine. Many students will have homework after school but breaking up the homework routine with short bursts of play inside or outside can help reduce feelings of overwhelm for your child and give them quick brain breaks. These can even help him or her feel more effective when they are trying to focus on homework.
-Maintain a consistent sleep routine. As days begin to feel longer and your child’s bedtime may begin to feel too early due to the time of the sunset, it is important to keep your child’s bedtime routine and sleep schedule as consistent as possible. Healthy sleep is a building block for a successful school day and working to keep bedtimes and routines similar throughout the year helps your child develop and maintain healthy sleep patterns. Getting enough sleep each night is a crucial piece of a fun and focused day. Here is a chart that helps you determine how much sleep your student should be getting each night. If your child is having a hard time falling or staying asleep, work to adjust your bedtime routine to begin earlier, include a calming activity such as a warm back or quiet story, use aromatherapy or a sound machine to help your child’s brain shift from the busy day to the relaxation of sleep. These strategies can even help us as adults if we are having difficulty turning off our brain at night.
-Coach your child in how to use self-control and self-regulation strategies during the day to refocus his or her distracted mind. Teaching your child to take slow, deep breaths is a strategy that can help your student calm their body and mind if it is feeling amped up during the school day. This video can work as a visual cue for helping your child understand how to breathe in slowly and exhale slowly to calm his or her body and mind. You may want to discuss with your child’s teacher the use of a fidget toy or tool that your child can use in class as these can be effective for some students but you also don’t want it to become a distraction to others. A few examples of fidgets could be a small, squeezable ball or toy, a piece of Velcro placed on your students desk or pencil for sensory stimulation or planned opportunities for your child to be able to get up and move around the room when distracted (for example, helping the teacher pass out papers or sharpening a few pencils for the teacher). Your child can also work to learn strategies such as chair popcorn where he or she will place their palms on the seat by their legs and push down, slightly elevating their body and then slowly coming back down. This provides stimulation to their muscles and is an outlet for some of their energy while remaining quiet and in their seat. Pushing their hands together in their lap is another example of a quiet energy release that your student can use to help reduce distraction and excess energy throughout the day.
-Set small, achievable goals for your student. Working to help your child feel successful in the short term can lead to long term successes. When your student feels defeated or overwhelmed, they may be less likely to use their learned strategies for classroom and homework success so smaller goals can help maintain momentum. Daily or weekly goals such as finishing all homework on time, achieving a certain grade on assignments or working to receive fewer conduct marks for off task behavior each week are all examples of small goals that you can work to incorporate into your child’s routine. Earning extra play time, a small prize (maybe some of that holiday candy), or special one on one time with you can be great incentives for your student to do the work and finish strong this school year.
Just as students are having a difficult time focusing as the weather warms up and the dreams of summer vacation increase, you may find yourself having a harder time focusing at work as well. These strategies can also be tailored for your busy day. Take walks whenever possible, eat a healthy lunch that isn’t full of sugary foods, set goals throughout the day and reward yourself when you achieve them. Modeling these skills for your kids can help you focus at work and it can be an encouragement to your child.
If you are having continued difficulty focusing or these routines are not feeling successful for your child after several attempts, it may be time to reach out to see if counseling can be a helpful support. Northstar Counseling Center is here to help if you are feeling unfocused, overwhelmed or as if making it to the end of the school year is a daily battle for your family. You can do it! If needed, we are here to help.