5 Self Regulation Tips to Reduce Schoolwork Battles
In a time filled with so much uncertainty, we as adults are beginning to feel overwhelmed and out of control. It is important to remember that our children feel these emotions too and need our help in dealing with them. In a short period of time, everything about their daily routine has changed. It is normal to see some frustration erupt when it comes to sitting down and doing their schoolwork. Below are 5 self regulation tips to reduce schoolwork battles while you navigate school from home. We hope they help you and your little one!
Follow a Schedule
Your child is used to having a set schedule at school where they do table work, play outside and eat lunch all at certain times. Following a similar schedule or routine at home can help them adjust better and feel some normalcy in their day. Maybe you do schoolwork in the morning then take a walk or play outside before lunch and pick up with schoolwork in the afternoon. Depending on their age let them be involved in creating the schedule. Have the schedule hanging up where they can see it and mark items off as you go to show they have been completed. If your child is younger, use a picture schedule. Knowing what activity is coming next and what to expect gives your child a sense of control over their day.
Activities that target the proprioceptive sense are referred to as “heavy work.” Receptors for this sense are located in the muscle and joints and are stimulated through activities that cause pressure or use arms and legs to push/pull, lift, hang and jump. Participation in heavy work has shown to improve attention and regulate arousal level. Having your child do heavy work right before sitting down for schoolwork (or taking breaks during) can be beneficial for learning and focus. Some ideas for heavy work activities are listed below!
- Animal Walks (crab crawl, bear crawl, bunny hops)
- Wall Pushups
- Roll an exercise ball or weighted ball over their body
- Hang from Monkey Bars or climb on playground equipment
- Push/Pull a heavy box or laundry basket
Have a clear Start and End point
If you schedule 30 minutes of schoolwork after breakfast, have a clear start and end time for your child. For older children, you can simply say “We will do your schoolwork from 9:00-9:30” and have a clock visible. For younger children, a visual timer with light and/or sound cues can be helpful such as the one linked here. Knowing when the task will end and how much time is left can help your child focus and stay on task. Be careful not to schedule too much time for one schoolwork session. If you find your child getting frustrated and distracted after 15 minutes, schedule a break after 15 minutes for the following day. The goal is for your child to be successful in that period of time.
Just like adults, children get upset and frustrated when they feel out of control. Giving your child some choices allows them some sense of control over their day. However, too many choices at once can be overwhelming. For young children, offer 2 specific choices, both of which have been approved by you. Language like “this or that” is a good way to present the choices. Some examples for applying this to school work are listed below:
- Would you like to read this book or that book?
- Do you want to use the red pencil or the blue pencil to draw shapes?
- Would you like to write about planes or dinosaurs?
- Would you like to sit at the table or the counter to do your work today?
- Do you want to try 2 or 3 math problems today?
Introduce Coping Strategies
Identifying emotions and knowing how to cope with them is not an easy task for your little one. Self regulation is something that is learned over time, and your child needs your help in knowing what works and what doesn’t. When you see your child getting frustrated or upset during schoolwork, help them identify the emotion they are feeling and offer a coping strategy to try. For example, “I see you are getting frustrated while doing your math work, why don’t you take some deep breaths and drink some water and we will start again in 2 minutes.” By offering different coping strategies each time, you and your child will begin to see what works for them. What works for one child won’t necessarily work for another. Some examples of coping strategies for children are listed below.
- Find a quiet place to be alone
- Blow bubbles (Deep breathing)
- Listen to music
- Name the emotion you are feeling
- Drink water
- Draw a picture
- Bear hugs
- Yoga cards
- Squeeze a ball as hard as you can
- Go outside
- Run around the room 3 times
- Count to 10
Learn more about the Pediatric Occupational Therapist behind this article, Kelsey Sharp, OT.