Great for All Ages, School Advice, Stress Management, The Happy Student Podcast

#109 Stress-Tolerance

Stress. We’ve all got it. I’ve got it. You’ve got it. Your kids have it. Some stress is good for us – it can help motivate us to do stuff and it activates our brain so that we really pay attention to what we are doing. But too much stress and those benefits go away. Too much stress and your brain starts worrying and stops working. You actually lose IQ points when you have too much stress. This is a problem. We’ve got 7 tips for building your stress-tolerance!

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Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg researches resilience, which requires a lot of stress-tolerance, and he’s got seven tips to help us manage our stress. 

1. Make problems manageable. The more you do this, the more it will become a habit every time something stressful pops up.

  • “Summit one mountain. When fully done, look up then” he says.
  • Have a plan of how you’re going to achieve your goal. It’s much scarier before you have that plan because the obstacle seems so much larger and impossible to overcome.
  • Help your child figure out what the problem is and how to overcome it, step by step, focusing just on one at a time.

2. Actively avoid stress-triggers.

  • Talk with your child about what or who triggers their stress and think about ways they might be able to avoid some of those triggers to make their school days better.

3. Exercise.

  • Anxiety is a bunch of extra energy coursing through your body, so Ginsburg says “we use up anxiety when we exercise.” And that will leave you feeling less anxious when you are done. 

4. Meditate.

  • Breathing, in particular, calms your entire system. And meditating helps to calm your mind. When you are calm, you are much more effective at overcoming obstacles.
  • When I’m stressed, I try to act quickly to relieve the stress. But I don’t always do a great job and then the stress returns. If I can calm myself down, I can go slowly and smoothly – do a good job, and be done faster. 

5. Sleep.

  • We all do better with sleep. We are happier and less stressed. 
  • We often think of sleep as nice to have, but really, it’s an absolute necessity. 

6. Take vacations.

  • Give yourself breaks and make them truly rejuvenating, like practice yoga or go for a walk. Scrolling through an app on your phone is not rejuvenating. 

7. Contribute to the world.

  • It makes you feel good to have something bigger than yourself that you’re working on. This can help protect you from stress that pops up when you are working on achieving it. Or, even when you’re not. 
  • And just because kids are young doesn’t mean they can’t contribute to the world. There are lots of things they can do, like be a bully buster or volunteer. 

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode! Comment below or send us an email!

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Definitions, Executive Functions Training, Great for All Ages, Parent Tips, The Happy Student Podcast

#107 Learning to Think About What You’re Doing

Metacognition: a useful skill that can help you study better because you know what you’re good at and what you need to improve. It can help you make better decisions, like when you just want to yell at someone because that would feel good but you realize that’s not actually the best course of action – which is helpful as a student, in the workforce on a team, as well as as a partner, parent, and friend. But it’s a really difficult thing to teach. Fireborn’s got 6 tips to make it easier!

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Metacognition is defined as “an awareness or understanding of one’s own thought process.” It’s  thinking about thinking.

The executive skills specialists, Peg Dawson and Richard Guare, describe good metacognition as…

  • You can routinely evaluate your performance and devise methods for personal improvement,
  • You can step back from a situation in order to make objective decisions,
  • You can ‘read’ situations well and adjust your behavior based on the reactions of others.

Metacognition is a useful skill that can help you study better because you know what you’re good at and what you need to improve, so you can practice that deliberate studying from episode 95. It can help you make better decisions to choose the best course of action. 

Ways to help your child develop metacognition

Make some goals.

  • It’s really helpful if your kid comes up with these goals for themselves because then the goals are something they really care about. 
  • You need a goal so that you can practice thinking about evaluating your performance and coming up with ways to improve.

Strategize.

  • Strategizing and spending time planning helps us think about what we actually want to accomplish, come up with a way to do it, and then we can actually do it. Practicing going through this thought process helps develop metacognition because it helps us evaluate what we are doing and adjust our behavior

Ask questions.

The following questions are super helpful and come from a blog called Inner Drive. So the questions to be asking are:

  • What do I want to achieve?
  • What should I do first?
  • Am I on the right track?
  • What can I do differently?
  • Who can I ask for help? 

And then there are questions to ask yourself at the end:

  • What worked well?
  • What could I have done better?
  • Can I apply this to other situations?
  • Ask these questions in a collaborative tone as your child works on accomplishing their goals. It would also be a great idea for you to set your own goals and ask yourself these questions to model all of this for your kid.

Stop and take stock.

  • With those goals that you have, make plans to check-in later. Maybe that means you set a calendar reminder for a week from today to see how you’re doing. Or maybe it means once you’ve done 1 hour of work, you take a break and reflect on the work you’ve done.

Review behavior and tell stories.

  • Once you have worked towards achieving your goal, or you have achieved your goal, review what you did well and what needs improvement. 
  • One way to do that is to tell a simple story – the story of what you did. Taking the time to say out loud what you did slows down your thought process and gives you time to pause and reflect.

Meditate.

  • So much of the trouble with executive functions comes from stress and/or an inability to slow down and make intentional choices. Meditation helps with that. It’s a stress reducer and it slows us down so that we are responsive instead of reflexive, so that we make intentional choices instead of being driven by habit. 
  • For help with meditation, there are apps like Calm and 10% Happier, and the book Sitting Still Like a Frog is a good one too.

Resources:

Inner Drive Questions

Teaching Metacognition

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode! Comment below or send us an email!

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

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Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!

Difficult Topics, Executive Functions Training, Great for All Ages, Motivating the Unmotivated, School Advice, The Happy Student Podcast, The Procrastination Problem, Use Your Summer Wisely

#106 3! 2! 1! Blastoff! How To Get to Work

If your kid doesn’t believe in getting started on homework as soon as possible; if procrastination is a problem; and if tasks are often left to the last minute, your child most likely struggles with the executive function skill called task initiation. Fireborn’s here to help with 8 tips for building task initiation skills this summer!

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It’s hard to get started working. Most of us have to use at least some willpower to stop doing something fun in order to start doing something not fun, but necessary. 

Another problem that can lead to procrastination is anxiety. If you are scared you don’t know how to do the homework, you may want to avoid it. And then you avoid it for so long that there is no possible way to finish it in time and you’ve done two things: 1. You’ve reinforced this belief that you didn’t know how to do the work, so now you are scared for tomorrow night’s homework. Or 2. You don’t really have to blame yourself because you didn’t have enough time to finish and if you had, then you might be able to tell yourself that you could have done it. Therefore keeping your pride intact. 

The summer is the perfect time to practice building those task initiation skills because the stakes are lower. Once you’ve got some task initiation skills and you go back to school when there is more pressure, you’ll already have some skills developed.

Today we are going to talk about finding ways to practice this executive function skill over the summer. 

  • Your child can practice with any reading lists, math packets, or stuff like that from school. 
  • If your child is going to camp and there is homework or practice for something like a play. 
  • Or maybe your child is taking swim lessons or tennis lessons – practicing at home like juggling a tennis ball on the racket could be seen as “homework”. 

You can set some goals at the beginning of the summer with your child. These goals should be child-generated. Having fun this summer is definitely an important goal. And then you can figure out what your child plans on doing to have fun. From there, talk with your child about some other goals. Just because these are things your kid wants to do, doesn’t mean they will actually be good at leaving video games behind to do it. So it will require practicing task initiation, at least at some point.

You can teach your child these 8 task initiation tips.

1. Use a “Rocketship Countdown”. 

  • Simply countdown like they do with rocketships, “3, 2, 1, blastoff!” and on “blastoff” you “blastoff” and go do whatever it is you need to get done. 
  • Being enthusiastic can be really helpful. 
  • Modeling it for your kid can encourage them to just do it too.

2. Create a music playlist for work time

  • Build a music playlist that does not have any words. Words in the music can take away brain power from reading and other verbal skills you need during homework time. 
  • Every time they are working on something, play the playlist. The playlist will eventually become a habit – it will cue that it is time for work and will help your child get into the working mindset. 

3. Develop routines. 

  • The nice thing about routines is that we don’t have to think about them – we just do them. So, if you can start making some work routines this summer, and the cues are the same in the school year, it can help them just work when they are cued.
  • Cues can be things like… 
    • the time of day, 
    • a sound, 
    • or a set of activities.

4. Work in short bursts with breaks

  • The thought of working for an unknown quantity of time can be intimidating. If your child just has to work until “it’s finished” – that can really dissuade them from wanting to get down to business because who knows how long that could take. 
  • They are also more likely to realize that the work is not as bad as they thought and they might get on a roll and keep going for longer, but maybe not and that’s okay too.

5. Preview the work and then take a break

  • By suggesting that your child just preview the work and not actually do any of it, you remove a lot of potential stress about how difficult the work will actually be. 
  • While they are having fun taking a break, their brain is still thinking about how to approach the work. So then when it’s time to get back to work, they already have some ideas on what to do, making it easier to just get started again.

6. Start using “Brain Breaks”

  • As Stacy Vernon from the Center for Brain Health writes, you need to “take frequent brain breaks to ‘recharge’ your mental energy.” Pushing yourself beyond the point of mental exhaustion stresses the brain. 
  • Building in brain down-time every day helps alleviate the stress that builds up throughout the day and can result in a feeling of mental exhaustion and low-level anxiety. 
  • Consider the 5 x 5 method, “taking 5 minutes of down time 5 times throughout the day.” Spend these times doing something that is relaxing to you! These brain breaks are meant to be times of zero effort thought – not zero thought at all.”

7. Use explicit instructions. 

  • When you have clear goals and steps to achieve the goals, it’s much easier to get started on the first step. 
  • You can help your child by giving them explicit instructions when you ask them to do stuff and by going through any assignments, cooking instructions, engineering project instructions (like Legos) with them ahead of time and answering any questions they have about what they mean, or showing them what those instructions mean. That will give them practice understanding what it looks like to follow instructions or to figure out the steps based on what is assigned. 

8. Figure out if you should do the hard stuff or the easy stuff first.

  • Talk to your child about what you prefer to do and point out opportunities that they have to figure it out for themselves. 

Resources:

Brain Breaks

Center for BrainHealth

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode! Comment below or send us an email!

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!