Three things parents can do in January for a better May
January spells the beginning of a new semester for most teens, but maybe things didn’t turn out so well the previous term. Now is the time to plan for success in school.
Too often kids who struggle or perform poorly in school are victims of their own poor habits. January is a great time to set them up for successfully completing the school year that is coming in May! Here are a few things parents can do to help:
1. Get to know the lay of the land. A new semester means a new schedule and perhaps a couple of new teachers. Contact the teachers to introduce yourself and ask questions like: (take out all dashes here and in between the questions) How much time per week can he expect to spend on homework for your course? Are there any large projects coming up during the semester? How often do you update your grades online? Then sit down with your student and discuss what you find out!
2. Chart a course. Sunday evening, sit down with your student to discuss school. Talk to your teen about the weekly family schedule including the sports and activities done during the week, and the expected homework load. For example, if you expect that your student is going to average one hour of homework per night, when will that hour happen on Tuesday night? Figuring this out will help both of you start healthy time management patterns.
3. Celebrate positive results and make a game plan for those times when you miss the target. You may find out during your Sunday evening sit-down that an Algebra test is coming up on Wednesday. Bring this up in conversation Monday and Tuesday nights, and then ask how he did on Wednesday. This engagement brings accountability, both to your teen and to you as the parent. Celebrate success! If your student did well, praise him! If the test didn’t go so well, process what went wrong. Challenge your child to speak with his teacher and ask follow up questions, and then encourage him to commit to improvement. The key is to show your teen the skill-set of owning his success so he can take the guidance you give him and begin to apply it without your help.
Communication is key. Parents who discuss goals, material from class, and time management with their teens will give struggling students more confidence in the classroom. These conversations are more effective when they start in January, instead of in early May when it’s too late.
Seasonal Affective Disorder might be the official mental health title, but many of us simply know it as the winter blues. While the medical classification of this seasonal pattern has changed over the years, the recognition of this depressed mood has become more common. It appears that its prevalence ranges from 1.4% in Florida to 9.9% in Alaska.
As Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years have all passed, winter is beginning to hit hard and maybe you have begun to recognize some of the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder:
– Difficulty waking up in the morning
– Tendency to oversleep and overeat, especially having a craving for carbohydrates
– A lack of energy
– Difficulty concentrating on or completing tasks
– Withdrawal from friends, family, and social activities
– Decreased sex drive
As we struggle with the change in sleep patterns, inactivity due to the weather, and hormonal fluctuation due to less sunlight, it becomes much more appealing to stay indoors rather than drive through the cold to meet up with friends. Emotionally, it can become difficult when our schedules are controlled by the weather. So, how do we break out of the pattern of winter hibernation and isolation when it is so appealing? Here are a few ways for us to intentionally combat the emotional struggles that come along with the winter season.
- Exercise! Exercise increases serotonin levels, helping us to feel excited and motivated. While it’s hard to get up the energy to go out to the gym on a cold night, families can unite during these times. Put in a game on the Wii or do a fun workout video in your living room, together. This approach is good for a few laughs as well.
- Engage together at home. While it may feel like a chore to go out, bring the activities home. Playing board games together, baking, reading, watching a movie, or playing charades can be fun to do together without having to make the commitment to go out.
- Build in time to relax too. Celebrate reading a book and having hot chocolate. Light a candle and listen to relaxing music. Take a bubble bath. Intentionally planning relaxing time rather than just isolating yourself can be a healthy way to combat the negative feelings associated with winter.
- Be productive. When it is not appealing to be outdoors, take advantage of getting household tasks done. Celebrate completing goals, even completing household chores.
- Intentionally plan outings. Winter introduces many activities such as sledding, skiing, etc. Go out to the movies, to a museum, or a play. Then, reward yourself later with some relaxation time.
The winter months can be long. They can feel exhausting. But, there are some practical things to boost our mood during these times. What are some ways you have found to combat with winter blahs or seasonal humbugs?