5 Tips to Help You Motivate Your Teen Between Spring Break and Summer Break:
The days are longer. The sun is brighter.
The air is turning from crisp and cold, to balmy and warm.
The sun is coaxing out the blooms and the buds.
And Oak Park and River Forest schools are back in session.
It’s likely your teen’s motivation was nosediving before spring break.
And now that Spring Break is over, and school is back in session there is soon to be no remnant of any academic focus until Summer break.
As parents, it’s tough to watch your kid hit ‘cruise control’ through the remaining trimester of school.
You try to encourage them to stay focused and on-task, as you continue to struggle to find your own motivation.
These last few months between Spring Break and Summer Break are brutal for all of us- students, teachers, and parents alike.
5 tips to Help You Motivate Your Teen Between Spring Break and Summer Break:
1. Identify & Battle Procrastination
Most middle and high schoolers are familiar with the word ‘procrastination.’ But, in a youth culture so full of cell phones, laptops, and video games: procrastination and distraction often blend together. Dr. Tim Pychyl, professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa shares that “procrastination is an emotional regulation problem, not a time management problem.”
Which means for us parents, removing all screens from your kid until they finish their essay won’t address the root cause of their procrastination tendencies. To nip the habit it in the bud, it is crucial to address their emotional reactions and self-esteem. The New York Times notes the best ways to battle procrastination include increasing self-compassion and kicking shame and guilt about procrastinating (yet again) to the curb! So when your teen starts dragging their feet on their assignments, take the opportunity to name the procrastination tendencies you’re observing, and help them battle it with support and validation.
2. Focus on the End Goal & Stay in the Present
The nice thing about the final stretch between Spring Break and Summer Break is that there is a clearly defined end goal ahead. I remember as a kid staring at the countdown of “Days until Summer Break” hanging up in my classroom. I would fantasize about the freedom I’d feel as I heard the final bell ring, on the last day of the school year. Encouraging kids to stay focused during the last stretch of the school year starts with a shift of mentality; from a previous focus on future, to focus on the present.
For the sports fans, a reminder that a big lead going into the 7th inning of baseball doesn’t guarantee a win, may be a helpful shift towards maintaining a present-focused outlook. Maybe it’s simply changing the messaging of the classroom countdown from saying, “30 days to suffer through until summer” to “30 more days of hard work until a fun & restfull summer.” Starting youth with a mindfulness of the present, helps bolster them from the cultural pressure to always be reaching and waiting for the next best thing, rather than enjoying the joys of the present.
3. Discuss & Enforce Expectations
Whatever the expectations and responsibilities are in your home, maintaining consistency during transitional times is key. It models the importance of discipline, that every parent hopes their teen will learn and carry with them into adulthood. Having a quick conversation with your teen about your continued expectations for their responsibilities sends a clear message where your boundaries are for areas they can “slack off” and areas they can’t. Often times teens associate the school months with routine, and the summer months with pure freedom: clarifying which expectations are linked to school and which are year round will help avoid possible conflict when summer break arrives. Maintaining consistency is a parenting hack encouraged across the board: Don’t miss out on another very important place to be consistent.
4. Set clear Incentives
As if a few months off of school isn’t enough incentive, I’m suggesting we incentivize these youth even more! Although many parents want to avoid getting their child in a rut of expecting to get things from every desirable behavior - it’s also what makes the world turn. There aren’t many of us that would go to work everyday without the incentive of a paycheck, or would choose to eat celery instead of potato chips without the incentive of a better wellness check up. Natural incentives are everywhere, and are a great way to capitalize your child’s motivation, as well as your own. Returning to the tried and true “first…., then….” style of planning encourages us all to power through the less desirable activity (of finishing a book report), with the assurance of a desirable reward (like a bike ride) when we’re finished. Lucky for us, Spring and Summer seasons come with their own natural incentives in the form of outdoor activities. Check off that to-do list and get outside with your family!
5. Normalize, Collaborate, & Model
Saving the best and most important for last: be transparent with your teen. If you’re struggling to find motivation to do your own work on a gorgeous sunny afternoon, tell them! Sharing your own difficulties helps normalize their own, and shows that the stir craziness of spring doesn’t end when you finish school. The time-management and motivation seeking habits that your teen learns now are life-long in value. Collaborate with your teen on some of these strategies and model your own efforts (perfection not expected!) to stay motivated. Set shared family incentives of outdoor activities, and start working together to plan some things you’ll do as a family this summer once you’ve reached your goals.