Learning how to approach a problem or a big project is a life skill that I think many adults do not ever learn how to do (I am still learning).
Recently, I have been working with a lot of teens on how to approach and get through their big school projects. I realized there was a system to approaching all of their issues, whether it was a science fair project, a history report, and, in one case, planning the school prom.
Here are 10 ideas you can use, and what you can teach your child as they start to deal with bigger issues in their lives.
3) Write Out a Plan: Writing out each of the parts of the project, as well as how much you plan on doing each day, is very calming and a good way to organize your thoughts. This will also help them not worry about each step so much, you can say to them: “We have it all planned out already, so do not worry about not having enough time, just focus on what you are doing right now.”
4) Learn Your Limits: When I teach time management, one of the biggest issues I face is teaching kids how to know their limits. Maybe they want to study and memorize all of chapter one on Saturday…but can they? I ask them to think about waking up on Saturday with that huge slate of work, will they really be able to do it, or is it too intimidating? Sometimes it goes the other way–too little work for a certain day so the last day before the test/project/event they have to pull an all-nighter.
5) Schedule in Breaks: How can anyone get anything done without taking a few breathers. I always make a schedule and plan in a lunch out, time to workout etc. Tell them that scheduling in and taking breaks is just as important as getting the project done…if you take breaks you will get it done better! Make sure to take breaks with them so they really feel like they are getting out of the school work. Help them take fun breaks by taking them out for ice cream, playing outside or even taking the dog for a walk.
6) Teach How to Take Breaks: Ok, maybe this is just me. But, when I was approaching finals, or when I have a lot of work to do on my blog. I plan in breaks like “wash dishes, vacuum apartment, call mom” etc. These breaks are not real breaks. Make sure you have them take breaks that are really fun and give their mind a rest. When I say ‘give their mind a rest’ I really mean have them do something that is totally different from what they are working on, if they are doing an art project let them play video games, if they are writing a paper, let them help you make dinner.
7) Getting Over A Block: If you get writers block or cannot get inspired, teach your kids to take a walk outside, leave the house, play a game or do something totally different to get inspired. Sometimes taking a step back is the best way to see the whole picture and get inspired. Another way to get over a block is to talk it out. Let them talk to you or a sibling to figure out why they are stumped, you would be surprised how inspiring younger siblings can be in their simplistic approaches!
8) Sleep Is the Best: To do good work and to concentrate, you must schedule in sleep time when dealing with a big issue. It can also be a great time to get over writers block or a fear of failure. On days when they have a lot of work or finals coming up, make the whole house go to sleep early so your working child does not feel left out. If you can move any dinners earlier maybe this is a good option for getting them to sleep earlier. Never, ever sacrifice sleep for work, your child is better off learning to make things shorter and take care of their health than pulling an all-nighter.
9) Context and Priority: It is always important to take a step back and realize before you stress, how important this project is in the scheme of your life. I also try to emphasize the idea of priorities. Especially when I am focusing on the details (like font or color). Is the font what is important here, or is getting it done on-time more crucial at this point? Kids especially focus a lot on little details of an art project or will spend two hours on the cover of a book report when that is not even graded—be sure to talk to them about this habit.
10) Take a Deep Breath: I often am called in when it is already too late to plan or take breaks. In that case, it is important to take a deep breath and approach the problem calmly and with a level head. Oxygen to the brain and a few deep breathing exercises can calm anyone down to do their best work.
You can do anything and being there for your kids and showing them that you love them and will help them through whatever they are dealing with will help you bond and improve your relationship for later.
Dream big, work hard and you will get there,
Vanessa Van Petten is the teen author of the book “You’re Grounded!”—a parenting book from a young perspective. Please check out the rest of Vanessa’s articles for parents!
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