With COVID-19 creating a continuous news cycle that provides endless updates, you can hardly blame anyone for seeking a little escape or distraction from time to time. This is especially true for teens, who are more than likely adjusting to a new way of learning while also trying to navigate schooling from home.
We’re living through a strange time and it’s worth explaining to your teen that struggling to focus or getting distracted is understandable given what’s going on in the world. But while leaning into a bit of self-care to get us through this uncertainty is one thing, you don't want your teen perfecting the art of procrastination because it’ll come back to bite them during exam time.
If you or your teenager are struggling to manage the new normal, along with school work, social media and other daily distractions, there are ways you can help them help themselves.
Set time aside for fun
Between spending hours studying from home and working under the shadow of a global health crisis, it's to be expected that your teen might be feeling anxious or worried. While they may already have a study plan, encourage them to have a fun plan, too. If they have a specific time set aside for relaxing, social media or gaming, they’ll have less desire to distract themselves while working.
Take regular minibreaks
Suggest that they work in chunks of time – say, 20 minutes – then take a few minutes to get a drink, stretch and walk around. This will keep up their energy, maintain their concentration and make study feel more manageable. You might keep an eye on how they’re going by having a cup of tea and a quick chat with them during one of these scheduled mini-breaks.
Block screen alerts
If they're working on a tablet or computer that is linked to their messages or social media, encourage them to block the alerts. When they're concentrating, a message alert pinging up will distract them and break their train of thought. In their non-study time, they can go for it and catch up on social media.
Agree on 'phone free' zones
Have a conversation about areas of the house that can become temporary phone-free zones, such as where they study and where everyone eats together. Encourage the whole family to play a role in making it happen.
Create a space they can concentrate in
This is especially important if your teen is spending more time schooling from home in light of the coronavirus. Being out of the classroom, away from their friends and teachers, can be a significant disruption to their learning routine. Creating a space that is primarily dedicated to their study hours (if possible) will help them to focus and concentrate.
Set up a quiet area for them to study in. Keep the TV turned down. If you have other kids, ask them to keep the noise down, so their sibling doesn't get distracted. Some people work best with silence, others with a hum of background noise or music. See what works for them.
While they're studying, don't let anyone disturb them; leave it until they’re having a break. Did you know that it takes most people around 20 minutes to get back on track with study after an interruption?
Monitor their sleep
Lack of sleep makes you lose focus, so it's easier to procrastinate or get distracted when you’re tired. Here's how you can help them get better sleep. On the flipside, if your teen is studying from home, there may be a temptation to hit snooze on the alarm and lay around all day. Explain to them the importance of maintaining a routine at a time like this, including when they wake up and go to bed.
Eat healthy, regular meals and snacks
Being hungry causes energy levels to drop and makes it hard to concentrate, so encourage your teen to eat proper meals and healthy energy snacks such as nuts. Help them out by using these handy tips when cooking them food. One of the few upsides of life in lockdown is turning each meal into a moment you can share together. Even a quick break for lunch before heading back to the books is a chance to reconnect with your teen during troubling times.
Cut the caffeine
Encourage them to drink lots of tap water; being hydrated will help them concentrate. Long days at the desk may make them keen for coffee (and lots of it!) Remind them that too much of a good thing can be bad, and suggest alternatives: Herbal teas are an excellent calming substitute.
Exams, expectations and study loads can lead to your teenager being stressed and easily distracted. And when you factor in the constant pressure of facing school while worrying about an uncertain future, it can easily feel overwhelming. Trying even a few of these tips can help you support them to manage distractions, keep calm during COVID-19 and study more efficiently, which reduces their overall stress and improves their wellbeing. If they're interested in reading a but more about studying hacks you can also share these time-management tricks with them.