As Spring break comes to an end, children and parents alike start counting the days until the end of the school year. However, with only a few short months left until Summer vacation, this is the time of year when schedules get truly hectic! All the spring sports, school performances, testing, plus end of year parties and celebrations pack the calendar. It’s no wonder we all feel a little scattered with so much going on, it’s hard for kids to stay focused on learning. No matter how much spring fever your family is dealing with, there are three simple steps you can follow to keep your kids focused at the end of the school year.
It’s tempting to let bedtime creep later as the days get longer. With ball practice or after dinner family walks calling, many families keep children awake an average of 30-90 minutes later on spring evenings. However, missing sleep is a major cause of behavior and attention problems in children! A well-rested child can focus, learn, and thrive as they finish out the school year. Set a bedtime that gives your child the recommended amount of sleep for their age and stick to it.
Have a Routine
With all the extra events and deadlines for school and extracurriculars, spring can be more hectic than the holidays. For kids, all those extra special events may actually feel like uncertainty. This event overload can lead to melt-downs in younger kids, but older kids may react by dawdling, tuning out, or acting out with defiance. If you’ve ever stood by the door holding soccer, school, and dance bags while yelling “get your shoes on!” for the millionth time, those behaviors will likely sound familiar.
Children who have dependable routines know what to expect, and are better able to focus when it’s time to get ready or change activities. A family schedule on a calendar or poster can help make your routine visible which is particularly important for non-neurotypical kids, especially a child with ADHD. When you know a week will be particularly busy or chaotic, remind kids of the routines you have in place- Taco Tuesday and then baseball practice, or band concert but we’ll be home in time to read the next chapter in our bedtime book. Communication is key when you or your children are busy.
Be Consistent about Behavior Expectations
It’s easy to let the little things slide in spring- a sassy comment, or rushing through homework. With all the excitement we don’t want to be the manners police or stop the fun just to answer a few extra math problems. Plus, parents are tired by May! The problem with this approach is children are still developing and are very rigid thinkers: what is true in one place must be true in another. That is, what’s okay at home is also okay at school, so as we loosen up our expectations at home, they loosen their behaviors at school and become less focused on learning.
If lack of focus is interfering with the end of the school year, have a family dinner to talk about what you’re noticing and ask everyone to make suggestions about behavior rules they think would help. Make a list together, and add your own expectations for their behavior at school. Then stick to the plan and remind kids why the rules you made together are so important for their learning.
Spring is a wonderful season and the end of school energy can be a great thing for kids. By making sure they get enough sleep, stick to a routine, and have consistent expectations, you can help them stay focused for the final weeks until summer vacation.