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Motivating your kids during this long stretch
Posted by Christine Sergiacomi on 3/24/2020
Practically overnight, parents have gained the new title of “homeschool coordinator”. As parents we are already responsible for getting our kids to do all kinds of things they might not want to do. . .eating vegetables, washing their hands, cleaning their room, putting on shoes (at least in my house). Now, you’re trying to navigate all of those things, plus helping your child with online learning, and (for many of us) working a full-time job as well. With that in mind, here are some tips for motivating your child to do their schoolwork, and maybe even their chores, at home.
Routine, routine, routine. It becomes easy to fall out of routine when we honestly have nowhere to be. By keeping some sort of routine, kids can see that there’s still a time for work and play each day. Let your child have input on developing your daily schedule. It gives them some control in an uncertain time, and they will usually buy into the schedule more if they were a part of creating it.
Find your child a “work friendly” space at home. This will look different in every house, but try to give your child some small area where they can keep all of their school supplies and where they have a table and chair for working each day. It becomes more inviting to do schoolwork when children have a dedicated spot of their own.
Let your children get bored sometimes. You are not the social director on a cruise ship. Giving kids some downtime to get a little “bored” will often make schoolwork or chores feel more appealing. Kids should never have a choice between excitement and schoolwork. Do you think they'll choose video games or schoolwork? It's a no brainer when you're 9 years old! Take away the exciting things until the schoolwork is done (or until it's break time).
Don’t expect children to work non-stop. The typical child’s attention span is 3-5 minutes per year of a child’s age. So an 8 year old, for example, shouldn’t be working more than 24-40 minutes without breaks. If your 8 year old struggles with attention issues, then they will be on the lower end of that range and will need breaks at least every 24 minutes. Asking your child to sit and work for stretches longer than that is going to be unproductive and frustrating for both of you.
Give kids movement breaks. There’s a reason that daily physical activity is mandated in public schools. When kids are getting too frustrated to keep working, or their attention span seems to be gone; encourage your kids to try movement breaks. Gonoodle is a great app that has tons of different short videos on it for kids to use as brain breaks. Some are movement focused, and others are more related to mindfulness. Most kids know about Gonoodle from their classroom already. In addition to these breaks, make the most of your outdoor space and get kids outside for breaks as well!
Praise kids efforts instead of achievement. Offer specific praise for how hard your child is working, or how they persevered on a certain activity. Linking praise to effort makes kids want to keep trying and shows them that the effort is the most important piece. Especially when your child is working on an area that is difficult for them, praise goes such a long way. Make them feel like a rock star!
If you’re into incentives, offer them now. Talk to your children about what they are willing to work for. It doesn’t have to be “stuff”; it can be a movie night at home, game night, choosing dinner for a week, etc. Then, make a contract with them where effort on schoolwork or chores leads to earning their incentive. Just remember that kids can’t wait too long for rewards; so incentives should be done over pretty short periods of time.
Don’t forget about other subjects! Some kids excel most in areas such as art, music, or PE. Give them time to do all of these things. Our wonderful specialists are providing lesson plans for kids to use during this time. All of these areas are great outlets for stress relief and they can keep your child feeling confident. Doing special work in these areas can also be used as incentive for getting their other subject work finished.
Specifically for chores. . .Make chore time more enjoyable. You can time your kids doing individual chores and see if they can beat their time from the day or week before. You can also play music during chore time and let kids pick the song that they want to be their clean up anthem. You can give kids a choice of chores by writing chores on popsicle sticks and having them pick one each day.Click here for a great article about chores! The article gives some really specific ways you can motivate your kids to help out at home.
And finally. . .Accept your limits: Everyone’s home life is going to look different during this time. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Stop going on facebook and reading the advice on all the amazing activities you should be doing with your children right now. Your job right now is to keep your kids safe and let them know that they are loved. Yes, keep them learning. Use the tips above to get them completing the work that their teachers are assigning. It is meaningful work. But if your child doesn’t learn to play a new instrument, build a model rocket, sew their own clothes, can their homemade jam, or (insert your lofty goal here). . .it’s going to be okay. We’re all going to be okay :)