Sprint to the Finish

Has your teen's head been in the clouds lately? Maybe it's spring fever. Although, if your son or daughter is graduating from high school this spring, it's probably the more serious condition called "senioritis". Many seniors are literally "out to lunch" once spring break commences. They've had enough - plain and simple. They are ready for the next stage in their lives, and they want to celebrate and enjoy.

No matter what the ailment, you might be dealing with a teen who is out of gas. Instead of studying, she is dreaming of sandy beaches and sleeping in on Mondays. Fortunately, there are things parents can do to help facilitate a successful finish to the demanding school year.

Distractions and other Culprits

Teachers will often say that you can tell it's the end of the year just by walking past a classroom. Students are distracted and restless. They might be staring out the window instead of at the white board.

Colleen Cook, PhD, assistant dean of student life and coordinator of counseling and career and health services at Ohio Wesleyan University, explains, "It can be difficult for teens to focus in the spring for a number of reasons. Many teens have not yet learned how to practice adequate self care, such as good eating, sleep, and stress management habits. This often leaves them feeling tired and burned-out by the time spring comes around. When you add the distractions of nicer weather and opportunities to engage in outdoor activities, it is easy to see why teens can become distracted from their schoolwork."

Typically, it seems that seniors have a worse case of spring fever than their younger counterparts. This is widely known as "senioritis." Cook suggests, "Graduating seniors should work to find a healthy balance between enjoying their final time in high school and making sure to make healthy and safe choices. Seniors who overindulge in fun, while under indulging in study skills and healthy habits, are likely to jeopardize their future."

Preventing Burnout

Teens deal with pressures throughout the school year. These pressures come from various sources, such as parents, teachers, and coaches; however, they also come from within. Overachievers, in particular, can begin to experience burnout as pressures build. A little bit of pressure is not a bad thing, but too much pressure can be a detriment.

Finding a balance between schoolwork and extracurricular activities is imperative. In the spring, teens tend to be out later at night due to various social events, such as spring musicals, proms, and other end-of-year celebrations. Sleep deprivation can increase stress levels. A lack of sleep coupled with time management issues can catapult your teen into academic disaster.

Cook advises, "Parents should teach their teens the importance of balance and healthy lifestyle choices. This means teaching your teens the importance of healthy eating, exercise, sleep habits, and relaxation strategies. Inform them of red flags to look out for that might indicate that they are 'out of balance,' such as anxiety, depression, or irritability." If teens are aware of these issues, they will more likely remain physically and emotionally healthy. She continues, "Parents also need to realize that teens will only take their advice seriously if they model it themselves. While young children are often naive enough to follow our advice even if we don't practice it, teenagers will often ignore advice that their parents don't practice themselves."

Cook reminds us to be on the lookout for more serious concerns that might present in a manner similar to burnout, such as depression, anxiety, learning disorders, or substance abuse. If parents believe that a more serious issue is the culprit, they should contact a mental health professional.

Spring Cleaning

Sometimes teens just need a fresh start. Suggest a major re-haul of her desk and book bag. The mere purging of old materials or creating new short-term goals could be enough to get your teen back on track.

Study times may have to be rescheduled due to the demands on the calendar. If teens choose a consistent study schedule, they are more likely to stick to it. Allow time for fun, but be sure that school work comes first.

Lastly, if you notice your teen's grades are slipping, communicate with her teachers before it's too late. Classroom teachers can aid in helping your teen get back on track.

TIPS AND TALES

  • "It's easy for teens to stay motivated when they remain goal-oriented. Having a long-term goal in mind (such as attending the college of their choice or future employment) will help steer them onto the right track!"
    Jessica Bowers - school counselor, Cary High School - Cary, NC
  • "It's important for seniors to know that colleges will receive a final transcript of their senior year grades and that most acceptance letters are conditional upon 'successful completion of their senior year.' For underclassmen, it is important to stay focused because every academic decision they make has an impact on their future."
    Corrie Haskell - school counselor, Hartford High School - White River Junction, VT