In This Issue
How to Deal with Writers Block

Picture the scene: You're at the computer, sitting in your favorite chair. You open Google Docs in one tab and the directions for your paper in another. You put your fingers on the keyboard, the ideas rolling in your head. And then...nothing. You draw a blank, and everything you knew about the topic is off vacationing in Paris. And now, you're stuck in front of the computer with a blinking cursor mocking you from a blank white page.

Writer's block is a common yet unfortunate problem that many students have faced. Whether it's a short response paper, a critical paper, or a dissertation, it can be extremely hard to know how to get started. Luckily, though, there are a few strategies you can use to get past this struggle:


Talk it out. Whether it's to a friend, a relative, or a stuffed animal, talking out loud can help light a spark. It's important to get out of your head, and by talking it out, you're better able to focus on the ideas you want in your paper. If you talk to a real person, they can even act as a sounding board and help you clarify the points you want to make.


Dictate your ideas. Do you ever have that feeling where you know exactly what it is you want to say but you can't translate your thoughts to paper? If that sounds all too familiar, then you may benefit from dictating your ideas. You can ask a friend or use a voice software program that will type out what you say, making it easier for you to focus solely on your ideas.


Skip the introduction. Introductions are the hardest part; it's difficult to introduce the main ideas of your paper when you have yet to write the body paragraphs. Instead of trying to write your intro first, jump straight to the body paragraphs.


Walk away from the computer. Mindlessly staring at the computer won't make words appear on the page. If you're stuck, walk away from the computer and take a break. Go outside or go in another room and take a deep breath; a change of environment can help you refocus.


Use a timer. The idea of sitting in front of a computer for several hours to work on a paper doesn't sound appealing, and that fear can deter you from writing. To make writing more bearable, try using a timer. Work for a short time (15-20 minutes) and then give yourself a 5-minute break.

Writer's block is an enemy of students, but it doesn't have to be YOUR enemy. Try using these strategies the next time you're working on a paper, and let us know how they go!

October  2019
Making the Most of Study Time 
In a world with ever increasing automation and a new smart technology arriving every week, we never have enough of the one thing we'd all like more of: time. With the rigors of school, homework, sports practices, rehearsals, and ever-expanding options for after-school activities, even kids feel they never have enough time. You're probably not going to have much luck convincing the soccer coach to end practice early (unless you are the soccer coach), but homework is one mountain that can be conquered. However, in order to effectively complete their homework, students need to be able to pay attention to the task at hand. 

To help your children build this essential skill, here are a few tips to keep in mind.


Before your children sit down to attend to their homework, it's important to first set parameters on the types of items they can have with them, where they can do homework, and how to structure their homework time.
  • Remove distractions. Digital devices and distracting toys can pull focus from the task at hand, so it's essential that these items are removed from your children's orbit. If your children need a computer to complete an assignment, use software such as Cold Turkey to block their access to distracting-websites, such as social media sites. 
  • Choose a quiet space. Full houses can have their share of distractions, so it's important that your children situate themselves in quiet places where their siblings, a TV, or a pet cannot bother them. If need be, your children can put on some instrumental music to help them focus.
  • Prioritize and break down tasks. Your children will likely have several assignments to complete every night, and jumping in without a plan can lead to feelings of anxiety and cause their thoughts to wander. For example, instead of aiming to write a 4-page paper in one sitting, help your children break this task down into smaller, more manageable pieces, like "create outline" and "write introduction." 

Sometimes, students try to rush through their work so that they're finished before dinner or their favorite show starts. However, this attitude impedes students from strengthening their ability to focus and sustain that attention. Therefore, it is essential to keep that notion front and center when helping your children prep for the day's homework. Additionally, while we work to build this skill, we must keep our expectations reasonable. The average adult can focus for only 42 minutes, and the number for children is much lower. 
  • Calming techniques. Deep belly breaths and meditating can help your children find their center and feel more prepared to begin working. Focusing on a single thing, in this case the breath, can enable your children to more easily transition from one task to the next.
  • Set work and break times. Using a timer, encourage your children to set work and break times. Twenty-five minutes is a reasonable goal for a high schooler and fifteen minutes for younger kids; the key here is to be realistic so that your children do not become frustrated. During their break time, they can run around, play with their toys, or check their cell phone, as this is their reward for staying focused during their work period. As they build their ability to focus, try to increase the amount of work time.
  • Positive reinforcement. Whenever your children maintain their focus during their work periods, make sure to positively reinforce their effort. Children respond well to praise, and when they realize that this type of behavior is acceptable and rewarded, they are more likely to keep engaging in it. 

If your children are used to spending hours switching between working on homework, watching television, checking their cell phone, and countless other tasks, it may be challenging to keep them motivated to focus on the tasks in front of them. If you need help keeping them interested in their academics, check out our wonderful monthly tip on motivation Ultimately, though, multitasking is not something anyone does effectively. We all have to do it from time to time but our efficiency inevitably suffers. One hour of focused studying will allow kids to complete the same amount of work that many hours of semi-focused work would have accomplished.

Just like the soccer coach is unlikely to end practice early, the academic workload kids face is unlikely to lighten anytime soon. Every year they are going to be asked to do more and more. Showing them from an early age the value of focused attention on a single goal, and helping them build the skills they need to maintain that focus, sets them on the path to meet those expectations. Just like most adults lose track of just how much time we spend bouncing between distractions, many kids fail to notice that the 3 hours they spend doing homework could have been accomplished in an hour of really-focused work. Showing them how to focus and sustain their attention gives them the power to meet their academic commitments and still have time for soccer practice or a night of Netflix with their friends.