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Together We Can!

“Together we can” is part of the tagline for the upcoming 2018 Annual International Conference on ADHD (St. Louis) but it struck me that a successful school year is also a matter of working together. The family as a team, educators and support personnel (coaches, therapists, babysitters, etc.) can do so much more when they work together. Here are three essentials for a happy, calm and successful year.

To make the magic happen:

Start with a growth mindset. A growth mindset as defined by Dr. Carol Dweck, “is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts….everyone can change and grow through application and experience.” So, if something is hard, it is only because it hasn’t been learned….. ”YET!” With effort they will be able to get it and that leaves their self-esteem intact. Whereas a fixed mindset, according to Dweck, “Believing your qualities are carved in stone – creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over.”  So you strive for the good grades in order to feel good about yourself. Then when you do poorly on something, you feel like a failure. Your motivation dwindles because in this mindset, nothing you can do can improve your grade. You’re stuck in a fixed mindset.  (Click here to watch a YouTube video of Dr. Dweck).

Next, get organized! Creating habits and routines can save time and energy, especially brain energy. A routine can take the pressure off of having to think “what do I need to do next?” and saves your decision capacity for things that really matter. You can create routines for the morning, evening and for homework. You can set up systems to help also. For example, create a launch pad or drop zone. Do you leave things near the door so you will remember to take them with you? If you create a specific place that is large enough for all family members, then everyone can start their day organized. I recommend packing backpacks, gym clothes, library books, sports equipment and whatever else can be ready ahead of time (your stuff too) and placing them each evening, in the launch pad area. It makes it so much easier if everything your children need is all ready to go rather than trying to get them to get things together when they are half asleep. Give it a try and have a calmer morning. The one thing most people don’t realize is that being organized is an ongoing process. You need to maintain the systems and habits that you set up by daily or weekly fine-tuning. A weekly backpack clean out can save a lot of headaches over missing work or upcoming projects and start each week off organized and in control. One binder is really all your child needs and it should open easily with one hand. Attaching a three hole punch inside can also help papers get where they need to go before they get lost. For you, having a meal plan ready so you know what is for dinner in between pick-ups is also helpful.

Love your brain. Your brain needs energy to operate efficiently just like your car needs gas. It needs sleep, protein, water, and exercise to be at its best. You can help your child develop an effective homework routine by including an active break when they first get home (about 30 minutes); a protein based snack and some water or juice. Once their brain has been recharged they should be able to sit down and get started on their homework. For elementary age students working through one assignment at a time or working for 30 minutes and then taking a five minute break, has been shown to be effective. The break needs to be non-electronic and timed. Older students can work 45-60 minutes and if they haven’t finished an assignment, should leave themselves a note to remind them of what the next step is before they take their break.

It takes about 6 exposures to new information before it can be “learned” so students should review the information (by asking themselves questions) at least four times over several days. Spreading out the review makes it stick more than cramming before a test can.

Also acknowledge your child every day they sit down and get to their homework on their own. Rather than “that’s great!” try something that shows how responsible they are being or mentions the new habits they are developing that can lead to improved grades. This encourages them to put the specifics together with their feelings about what you said. This ignites a little intrinsic motivation fire that hopefully they will want to continue to fuel. When kids feel good about themselves and what they can do…there is no stopping them.

And lastly, take time for fun and self-care. Remember to take care of yourself too because keeping yourself happy and healthy allows you to be at your best for those you love.