Five ways to motivate your teen during school closure

Home-schooling, during coronavirus school closure, may present challenges for parents seeking ways to motivate their teens to study. Educate offers some tips for parents.

Help them to avoid distractions

Children getting distracted by their mobile phones is nothing new, and access to mobile phones in schools has been frequently debated. Now schools are closed and children will be at home, how can parents reduce the temptation for them to chat to friends, jump on TikTok or Snap Chat, watch videos or play games on their mobile phones?

In researching this piece people suggested locking mobile phones away or maintaining the rules of school at home and stopping children from having their phones between 8.30am and 3.30pm. For some parents these may seem impractical to enforce, however managing screen time consumption while home-schooling will need a plan. With a good Wi-Fi router, there are several ways to control internet access. This will allow you to limit the hours of access for specific devices, e.g. your child’s mobile phone or game console. You will find these options under the administrative panel but could start by reviewing your router’s parental controls. The BT Smart Hub 2 for example now has enhanced parental controls Alternatively, some parents may feel the best way is to build trust and agree sensible rules with a set time allowed each day.

Whatever you choose keeping them focused away from the distraction of their mobile phones will need careful thought in the days and weeks ahead.

Keep them being social while social distancing

A teenager being physically separated from their friends at school is going to be hard, and it will potentially impact negatively on their wellbeing and make it harder to motivate them without the normal social side of school interspersed between lessons. Finding new ways to keep them being social will help keep their minds healthy and ensure they stay connected with their friends.

On the one hand yes parents should limit the time spent on mobile devices, however as this is a big part of how teens socialise and seeing their friends socially will be trickier, factoring in ways for them to be social will be really important. Suddenly going to the cinema, enjoying a day out shopping with friends or grabbing a pizza together has all been cancelled. However, this is where digital tools may be able to help. Google Hangouts, Apple’s Facetime or the Zoom conference app can all be utilised by groups of friends to socialise. Encourage them to explore ways they could still gather. Perhaps this could be around food and cooking or playing games. You could extend this to include relatives as well as friends to keep families social. How about playing old fashioned board games in a virtual way!

Already people in the US are creating Zoom parties and these could be a great idea for teens to socialise. Girls could organise their own girlie hang outs where they put on their party clothes, style hair and make-up as though they are going out, perhaps create some mocktails and snacks, set a time and then virtually hang out with their friends. What they can’t do physically is possible online, albeit none of us have had much practice at it yet. Also, if your teen still has a part-time job during the pandemic, then this is a great way to keep them social whilst gaining new skills.

Play to their strengths

According to the Sleep Foundation organisation most teenagers need eight to 10 hours of sleep each night. Not getting enough sleep can affect their ability to learn, listen and concentrate. Without the regimented structure of the school day parents may be wondering how to best manage their teen’s sleep patterns whilst they are at home. Should they stick to the normal school timetable or should you let them sleep longer and start the home school day later? Perhaps these changes present an opportunity for parents to play to their individual child’s strengths. If they’re an early riser get them up and start their school day early, doing stuff first thing. If they don’t like mornings let them sleep but agree a time that they do get up by and then start their school day later. Flexibility and allowing your child to feel a sense of involvement with what’s going on may be a good way to increase their own motivation. Lack of motivation can simply be resistance and a teenager’s motivation can often be to do things their own way.

Form a virtual study group

Students’ normal groups and classes will now be dispersed away from the school physical building, and they may find studying and learning on their own a challenge. The social support of friends in class is invaluable for many students and finding ways to replicate this at home will help with motivation. However armed with their laptops, Wi-Fi and mobile phones, creating virtual groups between friends to study and discuss topics, as they would in a classroom, will provide important opportunity to interact. So how can your teen create a virtual group? The first step would be to find out who your child normally interacts with and works with collaboratively during lessons. An ability to already work well together and be comfortable with each other will ease the transition from physical to virtual group working. Keeping the group to a manageable size will ensure a higher level of effectiveness and optimum inclusivity for everyone in the group. There are several video conferencing platforms such as Skype which will work well and facilitate setting up a study group, but there are many digital tools out there and no doubt a few more will pop up!

Play the game

It may be that many of the online learning resources school have made available to your teen will include elements of game-based learning. The concept of gaming in learning could be incorporated by creating some simple revision style games. Encouraging competition or building in a way they can earn points for certain study activities that will lead to some type of reward. Teens, just like adults, find games fun and can be highly motivated while playing. It’s a big part of why teens love playing video games and why we all still love Monopoly.

Playing pairs is a game which could be adapted to almost any subject. To play this you’ll need a number of small blank pieces of card. Get your teen to write on one card the key word and on another card the translation, meaning or explanation. Create as many card pairs as possible related to the topic or subject they are learning. Mix the cards up and place them face down on a table. The idea is to turn over two cards at a time and match pairs. As the game goes on you need to try to remember where the cards have been placed to collect as many pairs as possible. This would be a great game to play with your teen, and would also show your own willingness to learn with them. It would also be a fun game between siblings. Perhaps if you have an older child who has now left school but studied the same subjects as the younger child, the game would bring out some healthy sibling rivalry. Most brothers and sisters, especially the older one, will not want to lose!

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