Help your teen learn new study skills

Do you find yourself worrying about your teen’s future, aware of their ability but concerned about their study skills and grades? Do you worry your adolescent is not working up to his or her potential? Are you concerned about how this will affect his or her college choices? A study skills assessment and plan tailored to address procrastination, manage screen time and deal with school-related stress may help your student learn new study skills, set priorities to manage stress and do their best in school.

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The challenge of learning to study efficiently: 
As a college professor, I have seen hundreds of teens struggle with inefficient study skills, poor self-discipline, or both. These challenges truly impact a student’s grades as well as their ability to immerse themselves fully in their learning environment and get the most from their academic experience.

Most teens struggle to learn how to manage stress and heavy workloads. Many secretly believe the myth that it is inborn skill rather than hard work (and a willingness to try again when things don't go as planned) that gets a person where they want to go.  I have seen all these problems at work, but I have also seen what can happen when these very students learn about the brain, develop a growth mindset, and find specific, straightforward new study skills.

Helping your teen learn to optimize study time: 
It is the rare student who arrives in high school or college ready to work independently and fully aware of what they need to do to optimize their chances of academic success. But every student can learn to apply simple neuroscience-based principles to get the most out of their study time and maximize their brain’s ability to take in and retain information. Everyone benefits when they learn about the special qualities that make up a growth mindset, and how those qualities help us stay resilient in the face of challenges, help us recognize the role of hard work in making progress, and for teens, find new approaches to try when school work gets tough.

With compassion, and a warm, humorous and supportive approach to challenging bad habits and celebrating new found strengths and study skills, most of my teenage clients discover the same thing my students do—a  curiosity about the brain and how it works, and fun ways to use new skills. Together we develop a study plan designed specifically for them that helps as they become more organized and optimizes their ability to study, to learn, and to retain new information. As a result, they work hard, but they work more efficiently, and they learn it is effort (not luck or native intellect) that gets them through academic challenge.

What’s involved in learning these skills? 
As a college professor and clinical psychologist with specialty training in neuropsychology, helping clients learn about their brain is a natural part of my work. It is especially helpful when I work with teens to bolster their study skills. When working with your son or daughter, I will use mindfulness-based exercises to help them discover what they are doing when they think they are studying, and from that self-discovery help them plan a tailored approach to school that capitalizes on both new-found self-awareness, and facts about the brain.

Your son or daughter is likely to find that learning how their brain works really does make a difference. They will learn why they procrastinate—and what they are doing when they are procrastinating. They will find new approaches for managing school stress that will help them now and in the future.  We will work together to help them create an individualized approach to their school life and new study skills founded in neuroscience and self-awareness. When used consistently, these new skills will help them do better in school, and possibly even rediscover the fun in learning.  

My teen and I argue all the time about school work. Will this help? 
Ultimately, your child’s education belongs to him or her, but it is very difficult to keep this philosophical stance when you see he or she is not working up to potential. Part of the task for you as a parent is to make sure you have provided opportunity, tools, solid organizational strategies, and a distraction-free environment. Then you have your hardest job—to step out of the way just enough for your child to learn what he or she can do independent of your intervention, while still staying aware of their progress. Our strategies will help you do this, but if arguments continue, we will work together toward a family-based solution.

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Will I be completely unaware of what is going on in school? 
Absolutely not! As the parent of a teen, I wouldn’t do that, and I would never advise anyone to step back entirely. You should continue to check your school website to monitor progress, and talk to your son or daughter about school obligations. You may (especially at the beginning) have routine daily check-ins with your teen about what is due tomorrow, and what he or she plans to accomplish today, in order to meet next week's goals. You should certainly celebrate the hard work your student is doing whenever you can! As time goes on, you may find yourself needing to check in a little less often, and celebrating a little bit more. But your student’s school progress is a barometer of many things, and as such, keeping track of it is an important responsibility of parenthood.

What if my teen doesn’t do what you design together? 
I work with teens and their parents on strategy development, and then I work to help teens understand that being a good student is a lot like being a good soccer or basketball player. You wouldn’t put your team on the field or court for a game without daily practice. Staying organized and studying effectively is just like daily practice—but the team is school work, teacher expectations, good study habits and his or her brain!

I also help teens understand that having knowledge of good study skills is like owning a pair of earplugs—earplugs don’t work if you keep them in your pocket. Study skills only work if you use them! Even with stories such as these, some adolescents continue to find motivation difficult. Making sure there are no underlying problems, such as an undiagnosed learning challenge, depression, or significant anxiety, is part of assessment and care.

Feel free to call me to consult about your teen's study skills.


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