At home, procrastination and distraction can prevent students (and adults) from accomplishing what they need to get done. Watching TV, taking a nap, scrolling through social media, or other activities (maybe even cleaning their room!), are big productivity killers that take them away from their goal of studying for or completing that assignment.
Fortunately, there are a few tricks we can all use to help us become more productive. Here are 7 ways to help your child stay focused and get more done when studying at home:
1. Create a study area
Create an area to study that is designated for just that. Whether it is the kitchen table or a desk in their bedroom, make that their space for work. Their beds should be for sleeping, not studying (it can be all too easy to take a nap!). Ideally, you want to allocate a space that receives natural light throughout the day, because research suggests that natural lighting helps people be more productive, happier, and healthier. If you can leave the space tidy and intact at the end of each day, then it becomes part of their routine to keep coming back to it without hesitation. Additionally, try to remove anything that could prompt them to procrastinate, for example, hide phones unless specifically needed! Most importantly, make sure that they keep their study space organised with everything that they need so they can put more time into studying and less trying to find a pen that works.
2. Structure the day
Students at British International School, Ho Chi Minh City, have been structuring their home learning around their school timetables as much as possible. This includes checking in with their form class and tutor every morning and even registering attendance. Whilst this helps us, as a school, track our students' engagement with their learning, it gives our students a sense of routine and purpose, which is far more important in a home learning environment.
If a strict timetable is not provided, then start the day by building a realistic plan that everyone can stick to. It should include some clear goals and plenty of opportunities to take a break! Try and strike a healthy balance between time in front of the screen and away from it. And don’t be afraid to reward each other when one of their targets (however small) has been achieved.
For our younger students, it is essential that they are allowed to centre their learning around play. That said, some degree of structure will help parents and their children. Children feel safe and secure because they know what to expect. Parents feel confident because they know how to respond, and they respond the same way each time. For example, perhaps there is a particular time every day in which you sit and read together, or create an art project?
As children grow and their executive networks begin to mature, they are progressively better at regulating their own emotions, resisting impulses, and organising their time. That said, they may still need a little support, and that is where collaboration comes in.
3. Get a good night’s sleep
Most of us know that getting a good night’s sleep is important, but too few of us actually make it a priority. Studies show that a good night's sleep improves learning and plays a vital role in good health and wellbeing throughout your life; it helps your brain work properly. Children and teens who are sleep deficient may have problems getting along with others. They may feel angry and impulsive, have mood swings, feel sad or depressed, or lack motivation. They also may have problems paying attention and feel stressed.
The National Sleep Foundation suggests that the amount of sleep an individual needs is based on a number of factors including age and your levels of activity. Whilst research cannot pinpoint the exact amount of sleep needed by people at different ages, the general rule of thumb is that the younger you are, the more sleep you need.
There are several steps you can take to increase your child’s chances of getting a good night’s sleep. As a starting point, try to build some preparations for sleep into their daily schedule. For example, avoid naps in the afternoon, make sure that you participate in some physical activity during the day, and then practice a relaxing bedtime routine. Start to wind down at a set time every day, this includes putting down your digital devices and finding some time to relax before bed.
4. Eat sensibly and drink plenty of water
Our bodies (and brains) need fuel to help stay in top form. Plus, it’s difficult to focus when your stomach is growling. Try to make sure that there are healthy snacks available within easy reach of their study space so that they aren’t pulled away for too long and so that they don’t get too distracted.
We all know that drinking water is important to stay healthy and that generally, the recommended intake is approximately 2 litres per day, but that will depend on your child and their body. Maintaining water balance is essential for their survival: It is useful for flushing out waste from their bodies, regulating body temperature and helping their brain function. For this reason, their bodies have a sophisticated system for regulating when and how much to drink. When their total water content goes below a certain level, thirst kicks in. So, make sure that they have water to hand throughout the day.
5. Keep moving
Physical activity has the power to protect students’ physical and mental wellbeing as it stimulates the brain, and body, enhancing the overall health of our students. It is important to encourage children to step away from their screens and let go of their worries and stresses. Ultimately, getting the blood pumping will help your child remain focused, motivated, and calm. Together with a healthy lifestyle of drinking plenty of water and eating a balanced diet, keeping fit and active also plays an integral part in sustaining the strength of the body’s immune system.
Try to exercise for at least one hour a day, build it into your child’s schedule, if it is not there already. If that is too difficult, encourage your child to get up at least once an hour for ten minutes and stretch, walk around, do some star jumps, basically make sure that they keep moving.
Connection and human interaction help us to thrive and flourish. Research has shown that strong ties are essential to a life well-lived and positive relationships are one of the strongest indicators of your satisfaction with life.
A quick chat with a friend can improve your child’s mood, provide support and reduce stress. Therefore, it’s so important that your child maintains their friendships during this time. Perhaps it’s not possible to physically see each other but remind your child to pick up the phone, send a text or video call their friends when possible.
Remember, we are all responsible for each other. In challenging times, it’s important that we look out for each other, help each other and care for each other. Stay connected and be kind.