After a two-week Christmas break, my 13-year-old son wasn’t looking forward to resuming school. January is a difficult time for kids to be in school. The winter break interrupts the routines they established in the fall. Spring is just around the corner. Getting their minds back in position to focus on the demands of school is a challenge for kids and their parents.
Here are some tips and tricks you can use to keep your kid from failing in school after Christmas break and finish the school year strong:
1) Ensure they’re getting good sleep.
Many kids have their regular sleep cycle disrupted during the Christmas break. My son is one of those who went to bed later and slept in. Getting back into a regular sleep cycle is important to his ability to focus. My son is homeschooled, and it’s obvious to me when he hasn’t had a good night’s sleep. He doesn’t remember instructions, takes twice as long to get his school work done, and is easily distracted.
A regular sleep cycle isn’t all that’s important to a good night’s sleep. Getting the right amount of sleep is important, too. A study by psychologist Reut Gruber at McGill University in Canada found that kids who lost just one hour of sleep over five nights were more irritable, frustrated and unfocused than when they followed their normal sleep patterns.
The National Sleep Foundation says that regular bed times and wake times support the best sleep. They also recommend children aged six to 13 get 9-11 hours of sleep each night. Teens need 8-10 hours of sleep.
In addition to helping kids get into a regular bed time and wake time, and helping them get the right amount of sleep, parents can help their children get quality sleep by keeping TVs, computers, phones and other digital media out of their children’s bedrooms. Studies have connected screen time before bedtime to poor sleep quality. Providing a dark, cool and quiet place to sleep is also important to restful sleep.
2) Provide good nutrition.
Christmastime is a fun time to indulge in candy canes, chocolate and other sweet treats. Now is a good time assure your child is getting nutrients that help their brain work well, and sustain their energy over time. Sugar-laced foods produce highs and lows that negatively impact concentration and memory.
University of Alberta (Canada) researchers studied the nutrition and school performance of almost 5,000 fifth-graders. They found that kids who ate an adequate amount of fruit, vegetables, protein and fiber, with less calorie intake from fat, did better at school tasks than kids eating food high in salt and saturated fat.
3) Help with homework.
Parents and kids will have appreciated a break from homework during the December break. Parents can help their kids get back into a routine that helps kids get their homework done and turned in on time.
Dr. Peg Dawson, writing for the National Association of School Psychologists, recommends parents help their children establish clear homework routines. Routines help kids focus their attention and provide a sense of order that can help them as they experience the increased demands that come with high school and college.
Parents can help set up a homework routine by assuring their child has a regular place and scheduled time to do their homework that minimizes distractions. Busy kids may benefit from sitting down with a parent once or twice a week to list their homework assignments and schedule them around after-school and weekend activities.
I coach people to get their most urgent tasks done first. That’s also a good rule to follow when scheduling homework. Encouraging a child to get their homework done before less urgent activities like watching TV, playing games, or socializing with friends and family is a habit that can help them be successful as adults.
4) Celebrate accomplishments.
Parents who set aside times each day for positive connections with their children build trust that will create a lasting bond between them, and a sense of security for their kids. In addition to using this time to find out what’s happening in your child’s life and how it’s affecting them, parents can also use this time to provide positive reinforcement that will help motivate them to succeed in school.
Parents can ask their children about what they’re doing in the classroom, and how they’re progressing on homework assignments. When listening carefully to what a child reports, a parent can zero in on reports the child gives about how they scored on homework and tests. Highlight those accomplishments by giving specific praise to your child, such as, “I’m proud of you for scoring 80 percent on your spelling test.”
Avoid critical comments. Don’t focus on mistakes or failures unless your child is asking for help. A negative focus will raise anxiety and stress, making it harder for your child to concentrate on the right things. What gets the most attention is perceived by your child to be the most important. Celebrating accomplishments produces positive emotions, encourages better focus, and helps motivate children to accomplish more.
If this post was helpful, please share it. What other tips to help keep a child from failing in school would you add to this list? Share with a comment below.
A version of this post also appeared on LifeZette.com.