Has Your Preteen Or Teen Lost Their Motivation For School? Here Are Some Tips To Help Them Get It Back

Ten months of dealing with a pandemic takes a toll on a child.  Zoom fatigue, the loss of social connections, and all the challenges of virtual learning can easily dampen young people’s spirits and motivation.  So, how can you help?

It begins with you:

More than likely, you may also be experiencing the same fatigue and frustration your preteen or teen is about the impact of the pandemic and the continued challenges of having your child learn virtually. However,  if you lack enthusiasm for virtual school, your children likely will too. Keep your attitude positive (even if you don’t always feel that way). Let them know that their education, even if it looks different right now is a priority for you, and you believe in it. Remember to always praise your child’s efforts- your encouragement means a lot to them.

Ask your teens what they are learning about and show interest in projects they are working on.  Sometimes kids (especially kids this age) lose motivation when they don’t see the relevance of what they’re learning – help them tie their lessons to real life. For example, how does a social studies lesson connect to what’s happening today in the news? 

Keep structure & routine in place:

As the months have worn on, it can be easy to let routines fall by the wayside. However, structure and routine have many benefits for all of us, but especially for our kids. If your child is waking up late, missing classes, not turning in assignments, it can become a vicious cycle. Your child struggles feels discouraged and tries less and less.  Keeping routine and structure at home will help your preteen or teen become organized and more successful. Feeling successful is a motivator.

Ask your preteen or teen to create a schedule to follow. It should include a time they will wake up, eat breakfast and prepare for school, what classes they have each day and a plan for after school. Let your teen determine how they want to handle homework. They can schedule a time to do homework right after school, or allow for a break first. Encourage your child to have a reasonable and consistent bedtime, so they are able to wake up easily and function in the morning.

If you have a high schooler that’s working after school- you may need to support them in figuring out how to balance work with school. While their income may be important to your household, it’s important that school remains their first priority. Make sure their work hours are reasonable and age-appropriate.

Remember to include downtime for your child. High stress can undermine your child’s motivation. Make sure there is time in the day for relaxation and fun.

Help your preteen/teen understand that virtual school is still school, and it counts: 

Some students may take the attitude that virtual school isn’t  “real school”, and doesn’t count in the same way in-person school does. Remind your student that grades and attendance will be assessed just as they would be in in-person school. If you have a high school student, emphasize that this year will still matter when it’s time to think about the future; colleges and trade schools will look to see how your child was able to perform. If your child has struggled, let your child know it isn’t too late to turn things around. There is always a path forward!

Hold Your Child Accountable: 

Use the various school platforms to monitor your child’s attendance and grades.  How is your child doing? Let your child know that you are checking and what your expectations are.  Offer praise for everything your child is doing well, and provide support for areas of struggle. Troubleshoot together if your child’s attendance or grades have been inconsistent. Enlist the help of your child’s teachers and guidance counselor if needed. Your child’s teachers have office hours and are available to provide one to one help. If you don’t know who your child’s guidance counselor is, check your school’s website to find out.

Instill hope by helping your child look to the future:  

While we don’t know how long your child may need to learn virtually, we do know that in-person school will return along with a semblance of normalcy. Help your child to be hopeful by talking about future plans. What does your child want to accomplish this year? Help your child set goals to get there. Encourage your child to set a list of goals and specific steps to achieve them. Consider having your child create a vision board with pictures and words representing these goals as visual inspiration.

Focus on your child’s resilience:

 While this is a really trying time in your child’s life, this will not be the last challenge your child will face. Remind them that even though this isn’t an ideal situation, it is what it is, and they still have a responsibility to try their best. Let them know that their ability to get through this will help them to cope with other challenges in the future. 

Look for all the areas where your child has shown strengths and point them out to your child. Help them to identify any positive changes they’ve made, new skills they’ve learned for school or life- help them to see the ways they have grown.  Are there other positive changes they can make? 

Some kids need an incentive:

Create incentives for your child to continue working in school.  Mark the end of each week with something celebratory. What would your child enjoy? Pizza night, game night, or movie night as a family, or maybe just time to meet virtually with friends or to play video games?  If your child needs daily incentives, it’s important that you take a “first this, then that” approach, meaning first school work needs to be done, and THEN they can watch tv, play video games, or chat with friends. If they receive the incentive before doing what’s asked, they lose their motivation to follow through. 

Keep your child Physically active:  Being sedentary all day negatively affects anyone’s mood, but children and teens require physical activity more than ever, especially while they learn virtually.  Help your child be active by assigning physical chores, encouraging them to go for walks, or walking together as a family.  

Could something else be happening?

If your child has lost their motivation for school, it could be a sign that emotional issues are affecting them. Sit and talk with your child often about what they are going through and feeling.  Validate their feelings and offer your support. If they continue to struggle, reach out to your child’s guidance counselor or HSSC for help. Check your school’s website if you don’t know who your child’s guidance teacher or HSSC is.  Remember there are many people here to support you!