Kids and The Homework Procrastination Curse

girl lying on floor engaged in procrastinationWe have been living the reality of adolescent procrastination for some time now….late school assignments, messy room, nagging over getting the lawn mowed – even personal hygiene issues (really…when was the last time you had a shower??). Procrastination can be a problem at any stage of life, but for a tween or teen it presents very significant challenges and risks for the child and family. It can create serious anxiety issues, affect self-identity and self-esteem, and set a child up for issues later in life.

Although our son, Elliott, has still been managing to get good grades at school despite his homework procrastination – the process he’s been going through is quite simply unhealthy.  The stress and anxiety associated with leaving work until the bitter end, freaking out and asking for help at late hours, and pulling all nighters to get assignments done – while still in Middle School??!! Come on! Something had to change.  During my company’s performance review process this is what we call not just focusing on the “what” (good grades) but also the “how” (killing you and your parents!).

As a result we decided to get school skills coaching help for our son. There are a lot of reasons why adolescents might procrastinate – anxiety, perfectionism, lack of confidence, attention disorder, beginning to assert their independence, or simply feeling overwhelmed – and getting support from professionals can help to identify underlying causes. But one thing at the root of most procrastination issues in kids is the fact that the last part of the brain to fully develop – the frontal lobe – is the very part responsible for good judgment and self regulation (namely, the ability to overcome impulses and make yourself do something that you maybe would rather not).  It is not just a skill that is learned over time –but is dependent on brain wiring that isn’t finished until the mid-twenties.

A development that seemed to make Elliott’s procrastination worse was a change last year in his middle school’s policy about late homework. Elliott, like many kids, is reasonably motivated to get good grades, which usually requires turning homework in on time. But now at his school kids get an automatic 50% if something is not handed in – and no penalty when late assignments are eventually submitted. The rationale given to parents was that the school doesn’t want kids who hit a rough patch to end up with such poor grades that they can’t dig themselves out of the hole. But instead, kids who are struggling with self-regulation don’t have a true deadline and end up feeling overwhelmed with an endless list of current and overdue assignments to complete. I can’t help but feel this policy was instituted more to protect the grading of teachers and schools than to help students – but no matter the reason, beware if your school goes down a similar path.

Despite a brain that is still under construction, kids can make the most of the brain power they do have with a few tips and techniques which we have learned through our journey. Below are a few of the things we have learned from our son’s coach – or through our own trial and error:

  • Pick 2 or 3 small simple homework tasks to start on each evening – maybe even work these out on the bus home – starting with something simple can make the work less scary and get them into the groove
  • Set priorities for evening homework and share with/get input from parents – even if for older kids that means texting parents at work (that’s what our coach suggested)
  • Break assignments down into chunks – even write out a step-by-step list if needed
  • Work alongside a family member or friend while they do their own work – known as “body doubling” this can create some support and accountability
  • Use a timer to set goals for a duration of time to work
  • Take short, active breaks – even if this needs to be frequent – brainstorm with your kids what kinds of breaks they can do
    • Our son takes short breaks to do push-ups, wash his face with a cold wash cloth, get a snack or shoot some hoops
  • Don’t let them have electronics with them in their room if at all possible (other than a computer if needed for their work) – there are too many distractions online these days
  • Provide some incentives for getting work done early – particularly on the weekend (e.g. having friends over when homework is out of the way)
  • Help them be realistic about time to spend on an assignment – if your child is a perfectionist, you may need to help them limit the time spent rather than ask them how much time they need
  • Also help them believe in themselves – when things go well, REALLY celebrate that – and use that to help them develop positive self-talk (e.g. go from “I just don’t have the drive or motivation that other kids have” to “hey I can do this – I just needed a way that worked for me”)

Also, below are a few good articles on the procrastination topic, which reinforce and build on the list above. Good luck!

Physical Activity Guidelines for Children Under 5 Years

How much physical activity do children under 5 years old need to do to keep healthy?

young kids do physical activity with hoopsBeing physically active every day is important for the healthy growth and development of babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers.

For this age group, activity of any intensity should be encouraged, including light activity and more energetic physical activity.

The amount of physical activity you need to do each week is determined by your age. Click on the links below for the recommendations for other age groups:

Babies

Babies should be encouraged to be active from birth. Before your baby begins to crawl, encourage them to be physically active by reaching and grasping, pulling and pushing, moving their head, body and limbs during daily routines, and during supervised floor play, including tummy time.

Once babies can move around, encourage them to be as active as possible in a safe, supervised and nurturing play environment. For more ideas, see Keeping kids active.

Toddlers

Children who can walk on their own should be physically active every day for at least 180 minutes (3 hours). This should be spread throughout the day, indoors or outside.

The 180 minutes can include light activity such as standing up, moving around, rolling and playing, as
well as more energetic activity like skipping, hopping, running and jumping.

Active play, such as using a climbing frame, riding a bike, playing in water, chasing games and ball games, is the best way for this age group to be physically active.

All Children under 5 Years Old

Children under 5 should not be inactive for long periods, except when they’re asleep. Watching TV, travelling by car, bus or train or being strapped into a buggy for long periods are not good for a child’s health and development. There’s growing evidence that such behaviour can increase their risk of poor health.

All children under 5 who are overweight can improve their health by meeting the activity guidelines, even if their weight doesn’t change. To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, they may need to do additional activity and make changes to their diet.

What counts as light activity for children?
Light activity for children includes a range of activities such as:

  • Standing up
  • Moving around
  • Walking at a slow pace
  • Less energetic play

What counts as energetic activity for children?
Examples of energetic activities suitable for most children who can walk on their own include:

  • Active play (such as hide and seek and stuck in the mud)
  • Fast walking
  • Riding a bike
  • Dancing
  • Swimming
  • Climbing
  • Skipping rope
  • Gymnastics

Energetic activity for children will make kids “huff and puff” and can include organised activities, like dance and gymnastics. Any sort of active play will usually include bursts of energetic activity.

 

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 04-18-2016 to 04-24-2016

twitter thumbIn this week’s Children’s Safety News: Teaching Snapchat Safety to Teens – Cyberbullying Research Center https://t.co/FjqXtQoh4K

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 20 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
Many  U.S. Adults Think Kids’ Health Is Worse Today Than Past Generations
https://t.co/shEuMfDjSJ

Tips for Protecting Your Child’s Teeth – For a Lifetime of Smiles

Mom helps daughter brush teethThe weather is getting warmer and that can only mean one thing – summer is coming! Kids love to indulge in ice cream, popsicles, candy and other delicious sweets, but this calls for a serious look at our children’s oral health. Here are a few tips for parents and caregivers to help you keep your children’s oral health in check not only during the summer months ahead but throughout the year.

Encourage them to eat nutritiously: When your child reaches for a sugary snack or soda, suggest healthy foods such as carrot sticks, yogurt, peanut butter or string cheese instead. Yes, tasty, sugary sweets are acceptable in moderation (it’s all a part of being a kid!), but it’s also important to educate our children on what foods will help them develop strong, cavity-free teeth.

Establish routine oral hygiene habits at a young age: As a rule of thumb, kids should brush their teeth at least twice daily. Children as young as two or three can begin using toothpaste when brushing, as long as they are supervised. A pea-sized amount for toddlers is just enough. When they can tie their shoes on their own, then they are ready to brush their teeth without adult supervision.

Visit the dentist twice a year: It’s important for kids to begin seeing the dentist regularly by the time their first tooth appears. These initial visits will allow your child to get acquainted with the dentist and help them get comfortable about going every six months.

Protect your child’s teeth with fluoride: If your child is less than seven years old, they should use fluoride toothpaste. If you live in an area where fluoride is not added to the water, talk to your dentist about the best way to protect your child’s teeth.

Mind these simple tips to ensure your child is on their way to achieving a smile that will last a lifetime!

The Huntsman: Winter’s War is Sensory Friendly Tomorrow at AMC

AMC Entertainment (AMC) has expanded their Sensory Friendly Films program in partnership with the Autism Society!  This Tuesday evening, families affected by autism or other special needs have the opportunity to view a sensory friendly screening of The Huntsman: Winter’s War, a film that may appeal to older audiences on the autism spectrum. 

New sensory friendly logoAs always, the movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

The-Huntsman-Winters-War-posterDoes it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

AMC and the Autism Society will be showing The Huntsman: Winter’s War tomorrow, Tuesday, April 26th at 7pm (local time). Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming soon:  Captain America: Civil War (Tues, 5/10 and Sat, 5/14)

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Editor’s note: Although The Huntsman: Winter’s War has been chosen by the Autism Society for a Tuesday Sensory Friendly screening, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for fantasy action violence and some sensuality. As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your child.

This Saturday, See The Jungle Book Sensory Friendly at AMC

New sensory friendly logoAMC Entertainment (AMC) and the Autism Society have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and other special needs “Sensory Friendly Films” every month – a wonderful opportunity to enjoy fun new films in a safe and accepting environment.

The movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

Jungle-book-posterDoes it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

This month, AMC and the Autism Society’s “Sensory Friendly Film” are offering the chance to see The Jungle Book on Saturday, April 23rd at 10am local tune. Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming later in April:   The Huntsman Winter’s War (Tues, 4/26)

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Editor’s note: Although The Jungle Book has been chosen by the AMC and the Autism Society as this month’s Sensory Friendly Film, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for some sequences of scary action and peril. As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your child.