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By Dawn Tedrow, LCSW – January 14, 2020

Many teens struggle with forgetting daily assignments and losing their homework, or they become overwhelmed thinking about the amount of work that needs to be completed. Being unorganized creates tremendous stress for people. 

It is important to teach our students good organizational skills to not only reduce stress at school but to help them continue to be successful throughout life.  I have some useful tips for helping your teen become more organized.

First and foremost, get them in the habit of using an agenda book. Most school bookstores sell them to students for a small fee. If they aren’t already in the habit of using an agenda book, I recommend reminding them daily and rewarding them with praise until they have gotten used to carrying it to every class and filling it out. 

I also recommend that students write in the book even if they don’t have an assignment due, by simply noting, “No homework.”  This will help them get into the habit of using the book during every class. If they forget to use it, simply remind them to start again. 

You can easily see if it is being used by sitting down with your teen at a designated time to review what homework needs to be completed each day.  Using positive and encouraging statements will help them view this as a pleasant task rather than you “nagging” at them.

Try to find ways to make the agenda book more interesting by purchasing different color ink pens or stickers.  I use different colors of sticky notes to put extra notes in my planner.  I find most agenda books to be too small for all of my tasks. If your teen runs into this problem, you might consider purchasing a planner with larger spaces for notes. 

One of my favorite planners is the Panda Planner, which can be purchased at www.pandaplanner.com.  The spaces are larger, allowing for more room to write necessary details about assignments to be completed.  They also break down according to the week and help teach the individual how to plan their month, week, and day. I easily plan my week and identify the top priority for each day.

Another simple tool for teens is what I refer to as a “homework folder.”  This is such a simple tool to keep homework assignments in a place that is easy to find so they don’t get lost.  I get a red folder with 3 clasps and place sheet protectors inside. 

There should be a sheet protector for each class (even gym) and then an extra one for documents that are sent home for parents, such as picture day or emergency contact forms to be completed.  I use colorful labels to identify each class. The folder is carried to every class. Students are instructed to place homework to be completed inside the appropriately labeled sheet protector. 

Once they have completed the assignment, they place it back in the sheet protector until they turn it in to their teacher. Graded assignments do not go back into the homework folder. They are placed in separate folders for the class. This is a quick and easy way to avoid lost homework.

Supplying your teenager with these simple tools will help them to stay organized and reduce school-related stress and anxiety.

By Jordan Beach, LSW – August 20, 2019

The beginning of the school year is full of excitement that helps our students start out with a fire in their souls. Unfortunately, that new excitement seems to wear off quickly, which leaves parents scrambling and struggling to look for ways to keep their children engaged.

Sometimes getting a child to complete homework after school feels like a battle we have to fight every day. What can we do to help keep some of that fire we had at the beginning of the year?

A good place to start when discussing long-lasting motivation is to help your child set goals. This is also a great learning opportunity to discuss short term goals vs. long term goals. If they have a goal of making the honor roll all year that’s great but help them break that large goal down into smaller goals. They will stay more motivated with small victories working towards their larger goal.

Rewarding your children for completing undesirable tasks is a great and easy way to help motivate them to complete their work at home. The most important thing to focus on is how you word things and the tone of voice you use.

If you tell your children, “We can go to the park after you finish your homework” it sounds a lot more enticing than “We’re not going anywhere until you finish your homework.” Your children are much more likely to respond positively to a reward with a positive tone rather than a punishment with a negative tone.

Sometimes there is pushback on the idea of rewarding your children for things they are required to do. In these situations, I like to use the analogy of an adult going to work. When an adult goes to work they complete all the tasks that are expected of them in order to receive a paycheck.

School, and sometimes even extracurriculars are considered a child’s job. They put hard work, a lot of time, and effort into these things and in order to stay motivated they need to see some form of compensation for their efforts. 

It’s also important to understand what motivates an individual child. The same type of reward will not work for all children.

Some children are super competitive so creating some form of competition will be enough to motivate them. Some kids need to feel appreciated and hear words of encouragement so positive reinforcement may be enough. Other kids are going to need physical rewards in the form of treats, small toys, activities like time at the playground, or picking a movie to watch before bed.

Every child is different which means there isn’t one solution to the question of motivation. Find what works for each child and use a mixture of methods, if necessary.

The most important thing to remember is to stay positive. Try not to punish kids for not completing tasks, rather find ways to encourage them by rewarding the desired behavior. As the school year goes on and gets busier it gets easier to let schedules slide but staying consistent will help keep your family on track to a successful year.

By Lynn Bell, LCSW – July 30, 2019

If you are a parent of a child with a chronic medical condition such as diabetes, asthma, allergies, cystic fibrosis, epilepsy, etc., your child may require specialized accommodations at school. Your child’s needs may require individual arrangements for homework, tests, attendance, and medication dispensation.

There are important documents that will help protect your child and determine how these accommodations will be carried out. The sooner the documents are completed in the school year, the better. 

The process starts by requesting a meeting in writing with the school counselor, principal or school nurse. It is best if the letter includes the date on which it is written, as this starts the “time clock” for when the school must work to ensure your child’s needs are being met. 

The letter should include your child’s diagnosis and a list of your main concerns.  Your child’s doctor or medical social worker can be a wonderful resource to help you write the letter. Reputable websites that focus on your child’s medical diagnosis can also be helpful, as they often include samples of letters and documents as a starting point.    

A commonly used document is a 504 Plan of Care.  A “504” is an outline for how the school will provide accommodations and supports to remove barriers so the student has equal access to a general education curriculum.  

For example, for students with Type 1 diabetes, the plan will distinguish which school personnel are responsible for administering or supervising blood sugar checks, drawing and administering insulin, where these tasks will be completed (nurse’s office or classroom), what supplies the student will carry with them and who will be trained on how to administer medication in case of emergency.  

As a parent, it is helpful to educate yourself about the documents best used with certain medical conditions. Two helpful resources are the ASK (About Special Kids) and Insource websites, both of which are based in Indiana and include a parent hotline:

As you develop a Plan of Care, the most important thing to remember throughout the entire process is that parents and school personnel must maintain open communication. Do not be afraid to ask questions or state your concerns.

It’s also important to monitor how well the Plan of Care is working throughout the school year and discuss whether changes need to occur.

You will always be the best advocate for your child as you work toward the best Plan of Care with the school.

child-studying

By Valorie Dassel, LCSW, Courier & Press, Sept. 6, 2016 –

With school back in session, many families are struggling to transition into a new routine. This is the perfect time to evaluate your child’s strengths and build on them for maximum academic success.

If your child feels ownership in the plan, they are much more likely to do well. Allow your child to help develop their academic plan while you remain firm on the most important aspects. Below are some strategies that many families find helpful.

1. Designate study time. Along with your student, decide on an appropriate amount of time to devote to studying outside of school. Students who require medication to stay focused will likely benefit from studying during the hours right after school. You may also have an unmedicated child who has an abundant amount of energy and needs to have some down time before they focus on homework.  Spending at least an hour on studies each night will help foster good study skills down the road.

2. Have a set day of the week you will check online grades together. If your student struggles to turn in assignments on time, ask them what they feel appropriate consequences should be for late work. As parents you can ultimately decide on more strict consequences if necessary. Consequences that many families find effective are taking the phone/iPod away for a day for each missing assignment, grounding for the following weekend, taking away video game time, or giving a chore for each missing assignment. Be creative! You know what motivates your child. Be careful to give appropriate time for groundings. If the punishment is too long, you risk your child giving up. Consequences should be set together ahead of time and written out so kids know what to expect and parents respond with rational thinking.

3. Encourage consistent use of an agenda book.  For better organization and less stress, encourage kids to develop the habit of writing assignments down when given and reviewing the homework written down before leaving school.

4. Encourage your child to communicate with teachers. If kids are struggling in a particular class, conversations with the teacher about what to study can prove very helpful.

5. Encourage your child to review notes and chapters every evening if they do not use all of their study time for homework. This will reinforce what has been taught and give them a jump on preparing for tests.

6. Look for improvement and brag on good grades. Positive feedback motivates kids. Help them set a small goal for improvement each week.

If the family can establish written study guidelines and have them handy for reference, the parent- child relationship should be less stressful. Many arguments are centered on grades. The key is remaining consistent and staying calm while enforcing guidelines. These steps should give your child more academic success, increased self-esteem and better self-discipline, leading to happier and healthier children and families.