5 Tips for Managing the Midyear Blues

How to increase student motivation all year round

As the months become cooler and the days become shorter, the thrill of the new year may have worn off and motivation begins to fade.  You may begin to hear “It’s too cold,” “It’s dark,” “I can’t be bothered,” “It’s too hard,” from your children as the midyear blues kick into full swing. So how do you keep your children motivated and manage the midyear blues?

1. Set Goals

Setting goals at the beginning of each week, month or term helps give clarity to where young people need to give their focus to. It allows them to decide what are the important tasks to complete and what is not a high priority. An idea is to print out the month’s calendar and help them write down what commitments they have on and what school work they have due. The visual display will help children feel more organised and less stressed about what is coming up. When it comes to big tasks, it can be helpful to break them down into smaller sections and set goals of when each part should be completed by. This makes the tasks feel less overwhelming and more achievable. When they reach their goal, they feel a sense of achievement which encourages them to keep trying and procrastinate less.

2. Reward Progress

Children and teenagers are often driven by extrinsic rewards. It’s beneficial to take time and recognise when they have succeeded at something for example, completing a task, finishing their chores without being asked and receiving positive feedback from a teacher. By acknowledging and rewarding progress, it gives them a sense of accomplishment, releases dopamine (a ‘feel-good’ hormone) and motivates them to continue to complete those tasks or make improvements. Extrinsic rewards such as having social time with friends, time for play, watching a favourite episode of a tv show, reading etc., can boost mood and motivation to keep going especially with the more difficult tasks.

3. Encourage time for fun and play

With our lives so full and busy, we can often put play and downtime low on the priority list. Children’s brains are working overtime processing and absorbing information, social situations, school work, along with their own emotions. They need downtime to play, create and unwind. Research suggests that having play time increases creativity and imagination and allows their brains to rest and reset. This aids in increasing productivity, improves concentration as well as assists in retaining the information they learnt during the day.

4. Aim for best effort vs perfection

Encouraging children for their best effort instead on focusing on grades reduces stress and worry. When grades and academic results are what’s prioritised, it can make young people feel pressured and worried and can impact their mental health if they don’t achieve certain grades. Reminding them that it’s ok to make mistakes as they are learning moments for the future and by helping them problem solve what they can do differently next time, it can boost their confidence in trying again and build resilience.

5. Promote positive wellbeing and good mental health

Building a foundation of good physical and mental health begins with having a healthy diet, maintaining good sleep patterns and being active. When these things are out of balance, stress, emotions, relationships, motivation, and behaviour are impacted.

Healthy diet

Healthy gut, healthy mind is what is being emphasized in current research. What food our bodies are being fuelled with has the potential to either give long lasting energy and a strong immunity or can weaken immunity and cause fatigue. In our busy lifestyles, it can be easy to grab pre-packaged foods to save time, however they’re often filled with hidden nasties, and can impact children’s mood, behaviour, and their ability to concentrate. A way of getting kids to eat healthy foods is to get them involved in the cooking, as well as including fruit and vegetables in muffins, fritters and even grated in meals like spaghetti bolognaise.

Quality sleep

Developing good sleep habits can be a challenge when competing with the need to feel connected through social media and online gaming, however, it is essential for good mental health. Sleep restores the brain and rejuvenates the body which in turn helps balance hormones and reduces stress. Quality sleep also assists in retaining information from the day and storing it in the memory. It helps with concentration, the effort associated with learning, and aids in regulating emotions. Some practical ways of helping your child get a good night’s sleep is to set up sleep habits such as turning off main lights in their bedroom and using a lamp as well as limiting screen time an hour before bed to reduce brain stimulation.

Get moving

There are many benefits to exercise for young people including, decreasing stress, improving self-esteem, as well as enhancing concentration and encouraging healthy growth and development. Some ideas for getting your child active is to get them involved in a sports team, going to the park to run around, encourage them to play with their pets, walking or riding to school, and going for a swim.

There still may be highs and lows during this winter season, however, these tips will assist in bringing balance to your child’s mood and motivation.

Jessica Young - School Counsellor