The first week of school is now finished and teachers have begun to give homework and talk about the goals for the courses youth are taking. Everyone is likely still enthusiastic, and the workload seems manageable. There are a few things you can do right now to help the young people around you to study.

The most important thing to do is to encourage learning and not just studying. This week in my office when I meet with youth, I will ask what courses they are taking and try to determine which subjects interest them most. Parents can do this also. You can discuss finding more material to help learn about a subject. This extra material might be good for a special assignment or project. The material can include documentaries about the subject, special exhibits around in your town or books around your house or at the library that could be helpful. With many schools and colleges now having course websites, teachers themselves will often suggest enriching material.

A second element of promoting learning is to help youth to develop discipline. As a parent, or grandparent or friend, you can model study habits by studying something yourself. It’s easy to do this with my work because I am always studying. I can show youth what I’m working on and why it is important in my practice. I also let the people I work with – and my patients – know that I am going to study at particular times during the day and I will tell them what I am specifically working on that is related to them. Family members can even do work with youth at the kitchen table – this is good in those circumstances where someone might need help that you can provide.

Finally, be sure to build in breaks when people are working hard. The breaks can be their regular sport or music or art activities, or they can be interesting family activities. There must also be some free time every day for everyone. When I am helping families who do not have some regular fun activities, we will often spend a session thinking about how they might develop some of these. Finding time to spend with friends is also important and so everyone in the family should be able to spend with their own friends.

A study plan like the one I have outlined takes a lot of time and so it is important to have a routine, and a straightforward schedule that’s easy for everyone to remember. You might have to write it out somewhere, although these days all youth will have a calendar on their smartphone. All these activities can be scheduled with everyone in the family.

In the end, as everyone knows, studying is hard – but not as hard as failure.

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