Help Teens Stay Focused at School Year’s End
Date: April 25, 2011
Has your teen's head been in the clouds lately? Maybe it's spring fever. Or if your son or daughter is graduating from high school this spring, it's probably "senioritis." Many seniors are "out to lunch" once spring break starts. They've had enough. They are ready for the next stage in their lives, and they want to celebrate.
Any age teen may be out of gas by the end of spring term. Fortunately, you can help facilitate a successful finish to the demanding school year.
Tame distractions and other culprits
Teachers often say that you can tell it's the end of the year when you walk past a classroom. Students are distracted and restless. They might be staring out the window instead of at the white board.
Colleen Cook, assistant dean of student life and coordinator of counseling and career and health services at Ohio Wesleyan University, explains, "It can be difficult for teens to focus in the spring for a number of reasons. Many teens have not yet learned how to practice adequate self-care, such as good eating, sleep and stress-management habits. This often leaves them feeling tired and burned-out by the time spring comes around. When you add the distractions of nicer weather and opportunities to engage in outdoor activities, it is easy to see why teens can become distracted from their schoolwork."
Typically, seniors often have more serious cases of spring fever than their younger counterparts. "Graduating seniors should work to find a healthy balance between enjoying their final time in high school and making sure to make healthy and safe choices. Seniors who overindulge in fun, while under-indulging in study skills and healthy habits, are likely to jeopardize their future," Cook says.
Teens deal with pressures throughout the school year. These pressures come from various sources, such as parents, teachers and coaches; however, they also come from within. Overachievers, in particular, can begin to experience burnout as pressures build. A little bit of pressure is not bad, but too much can be detrimental.
It is important to find a balance between schoolwork and extracurricular activities. In the spring, teens tend to be out later at spring musicals, proms and other year-end celebrations. Sleep deprivation can increase stress levels. A lack of sleep coupled with time management issues can catapult a teen into academic disaster.
"Parents should teach their teens the importance of balance and healthy lifestyle choices ... of healthy eating, exercise, sleep habits and relaxation strategies. Inform them of red flags to look out for that might indicate that they are 'out of balance,' such as anxiety, depression or irritability," Cook says.
If teens are aware of these issues, they will more likely remain physically and emotionally healthy. "Parents also need to realize that teens will only take their advice seriously if they model it themselves," Cook adds.
She reminds parents to watch for more serious concerns that might look like burnout, such as depression, anxiety, learning disorders or substance abuse, and contact a mental health professional if they believe that a more serious issue is the culprit.
Do some spring cleaning
Sometimes teens just need a fresh start. Suggest a major re-haul of her desk and book bag. Purging old materials or creating new short-term goals could be enough to get your teen back on track.
Study times may have to be rescheduled due to the demands on the calendar. If teens choose a consistent study schedule, they are more likely to stick to it. Allow time for fun, but be sure that schoolwork comes first.
If you notice your teen's grades are slipping, communicate with her teachers before it's too late. Teachers can help you get your teen get back on track. n
Myrna Beth Haskell is a feature writer and columnist specializing in parenting issues and child and adolescent development. She is the mother of two teenagers.
TIPS AND TALES FROM OTHER PARENTS
"It's easy for teens to stay motivated when they remain goal-oriented. Having a long-term goal in mind (such as attending the college of their choice or future employment) will help steer them onto the right track!" — Jessica Bowers, school counselor, Cary High School, Cary
"It's important for seniors to know that colleges will receive a final transcript of their senior year grades and that most acceptance letters are conditional upon 'successful completion of their senior year.' For underclassmen, it is important to stay focused because every academic decision they make has an impact on their future." — Corrie Haskell, school counselor, Hartford High School, White River Junction, Vt.
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