You may have heard that study skills are necessary in order to succeed in school, but did you know that these same skills also help students navigate the sometimes bumpy road of life as well? That’s right; acquiring effective study skills can help kids make the grade while simultaneously preparing them for life’s inevitable surprises as they transition from grade to grade, enroll in college, and eventually enter the “real” world of work and personal responsibility.
While we all try to provide a stable environment for our children, parents can’t possibly shelter kids from everything. Sometimes, life throws us a curve ball, and when it does, our children need to be prepared. Other times, even planned transitions such as graduating from elementary or middle school can be difficult for children. Luckily, some of the same skills that prove effective in helping kids succeed in school can also keep them going down the right track when faced with one of life’s many obstacles.
Iterative Goal Setting
It’s no surprise that proper goal setting can enable kids to perform well academically. To help your child succeed in school, it’s important to discuss their long-term goals and guide them through the process of outlining relevant short term goals that help them achieve both personal and professional success. This simple but powerful practice can keep children focused on success and on the right track towards achieving their life’s dreams even in the face of adversity.
On a more immediate level, goal setting can be a great addition to other effective study skills. A student with the ability to create and execute goals will be much more likely to implement time management skills when preparing for an exam, for instance, rather than cramming for the test the night before. Children with a clear set of goals also tend to be more motivated than other children and are therefore willing to do whatever is necessary to achieve their personal milestones whether it means committing more time to a school assignment or giving up a social or extracurricular activity in order to improve their grades.
When you introduce your child to effective goal setting, you’re not just preparing them for academic success, though. Goal setting is an important life skill as well. With this in mind, be sure to emphasize to your child that in order to be effective in our ever-changing world, goals must be flexible. As difficult as this is for some children to understand, not all goals are achievable, and sometimes it’s impossible to discern which ones are realistic and which are vulnerable to life’s changing winds. That’s why children should be taught to reevaluate goals and set new ones when necessary. To succeed in school, students have to remain focused on the big picture even when faced with adversity. For example, if a student sets a goal to make the math team but comes up short-handed, then in order to continue down the path of success, it will become necessary to set a new goal rather than simply giving up. In this case, the student may discover that he’s better equipped to be on the debate team, or he may decide to implement new study skills and try out for the math team again next year. In any case, to create a pattern of achievement, goals must be flexible and renewable.
The same is true in life, of course. Students may have plans of attending a certain high school, but circumstances such as a divorce or move may make these plans impossible. In this case, in order to deal with the transition in a healthy way, the child needs to assimilate the new circumstance and begin making new plans and setting appropriate goals to accommodate the current situation that faces them.
School, like life, can sometimes be stressful. Study skills like stress management can enable a student to succeed in school by keeping their cool during a test and balancing school and social obligations. Stress management isn’t just a necessary skill for academic performance, however. When faced with a major life transition such as a move to another school or a death in the family, handling stress in a positive manner is crucial. Children who fail to deal with stress positively can become isolated or withdrawn, or worse, end up experimenting with self-destructive behaviors such as drinking or using illegal substances. Here are a few strategies you can teach your child to effectively implement stress management skills in and out of school:
- Teach children mindfulness. Show them how to become aware of their breathing and slow it to a pattern of long deep breaths when they get anxious or stressed.
- Start a gratitude journal with them. Direct your child to take mental note of the things he is most grateful for on a daily basis. At the end of the day, ask him to write down what he was grateful for during that day. Research proves that people who engage in this practice are much happier, peaceful, and composed even while facing challenges.
- Discourage multi-tasking and teach your child the importance of prioritization instead.
- Promote physical activity and provide your child with the opportunity to exercise daily.
To succeed in school, it is necessary to have a certain degree of intelligence, but this intelligence refers to more than just intellectual ability. In fact, some studies have shown that emotional intelligence is just as—if not more—important to a student’s success in school and in life. Emotional intelligence refers to one’s ability to manage emotions. To be emotionally intelligent, a child needs to be able to handle their own emotions and influence and respond to the emotions of others as well. While some people may not perceive strategies related to emotional intelligence as study skills, per se, they can certainly come in handy when discussing grades with teachers and dividing up group work amongst fellow classmates. Both of these common school scenarios call for negotiation and influence skills, which require a great deal of emotional intelligence.
Likewise, during a major life change such as a move to a new school district, a child will need strong emotional intelligence in order to remain confident in a new environment, make new friends, and become accustomed to new rules and standards of academic performance. Here are a few ways you can help your child fully develop their powers of emotional intelligence:
- Teach children to recognize, label, and acknowledge their emotions.
- Be open to your child and allow him to discuss his feelings freely and positively.
- Teach your child to respond to her emotions appropriately and constructively (i.e. taking some time to cool down when angry instead of yelling or hitting).
- Demonstrate positive self-talk and discuss its importance.
- Watch for and discourage the tendency to blame when confronted with a problem or a challenge. Teach them that like worry, this is a purely destructive reaction to a situation.
- Practice appropriate verbal and nonverbal communication skills with your child.
Although talking about the important skills of goal-setting, stress management, and emotional intelligence is a healthy practice, keep in mind that children live first and foremost by example. Thus, the very best thing you can do to help your child succeed in school and in his personal and professional endeavors is to set a good example and demonstrate the use of these skills in your everyday life. Once she sees that they’re working for you, she’ll be eager to apply them to her own life as well.