Ho ho, holy moly — we’re almost at the end of another year!

For parents, it’s been a long and wild ride of making sure your child makes it until the end, closing their school year strong. That’s just the kind of thing committed mums or dads do for their kids.

There isn’t anything wrong with pushing your child to achieve more of their potential. But when it comes to improving marks and study effectiveness, it’s very easy for parents and educators to get tunnel vision. You want your child to keep their eyes on the prize, but unfortunately, it can also lead to a hyperfocus on the “just doing.”

“You need to study more.”
“You need to spend more time on notes.”
“You have to work extra hard.”
“You have to be consistent.”

Over time, an imbalance in rest-to-work ratios can lead to stumbles in study cadence, declines in motivation and even chronic burnout. Yes, it’s critical that students implement good study habits and consistently focus on studying throughout the term. But it’s also just as important for the consistency and longevity of their study habits to balance their learning strategy with active rest, and they remember to take a breath as they go.

With the holidays and summer break coming up, now is the perfect time to explore different ways to recharge and replenish your teenager’s energy so they can face another school year with sustained fuel and motivation.

Burnout and The Need for Rest

Teenage burnout is a state of mental and physical exhaustion because of prolonged overstudy and stress. Because high school students are expected to cope with many pressures to keep up, perform well and compete against their cohort for the best marks and rankings, they’re also particularly susceptible to burnout.

The awful thing about burnout is that it can lead to significant mental and physical health problems, manifested as children’s lack of motivation, pervasive sense of exhaustion, and outright cynicism about school. It’s often caused by overwhelming academic demands, high expectations, and a lack of sense of control over their life. Whatever the cause, a lot of students describe it as feelings over overwhelmed, hopelessness and ‘like being stuck in a hole that just deepens every time you try to get out’.

No child should ever have to go through that.

Society is almost wired to overlook the importance of rest, instead replacing it with ‘work, work, work’. Even as parents, our daily lives are made up of long to-do lists, back-to-back deadlines, and piling tasks that flip the conversation over to what “needs to be done.” But the reality is we’re humans; we’re not machines. If we treat ourselves like robots, then we’re bound to break.

Of course, no parent or teacher intends to treat their child as a machine that can tick off every item on a checklist. And yet, this year we found that students were burning out quicker than ever. In previous years, our team of education strategists would typically see most students who aren’t supported by a structured education strategy experience a decline about late May or June. However, we noticed that dip in motivation much earlier this year — around March and April. And for most students, the April holidays weren’t enough to recharge the students’ batteries compared to previous years.

Supporting our research, a 2020 survey by ReachOut found that almost 50% of young people admit to feeling extremely stressed about study and exams, with 46% indicating that study stress significantly impacts their mental health and well-being. These only emphasise the need for parents, schools, and educators to work together and prioritise student wellbeing and support.

Tips for Prioritising Rest

The holiday season is a great time to take a step back and evaluate how you and your child tackled the school year and think about the changes or strategies you need for your child to be ready for the new school year.

Here are four tips to think about as you go and plan out your child’s learning strategy for 2024:

1. Choose your break times wisely.

When children are left to take breaks without guidance, they tend to leave their assignments to the last minute or completely avoid a task they don’t want to accomplish. Choosing break times wisely helps make sure that the breaks are recharging us and not hurting our productivity.

Have an open conversation about when your child should stop studying and when they should pick up on where they left off. You and your child should collaborate and agree on the timing and the activities they can do to unwind and recharge. It helps foster a sense of control for your child and helps them avoid abrupt or unplanned breaks.

2. Implement a strategy for rest and active recharge.

What exactly helps your child recharge? Is it being with other people or having alone time for something they love to do? Whether it’s their hobby, a passion project, or just plain social interaction, help them identify what fuels their batteries and create some space in their routine for these activities.

High achievers who are used to high-level productivity tend to crash and experience anxiety when they just stop. So, it’s best to have a plan to wind down and not just drop everything to do nothing and rest.

3. Distinguish active recharge and something to occupy time.

A study we conducted this year found that students who had a regular sport or physical activity generally had better resilience compared to the students who didn’t attend to any regular physical activity.

It didn’t matter what sport it was — it could have been regular school sports (beyond just PE lessons…), extracurricular tennis lessons, or just regularly going to the gym. Students who undertook 5 or more weekly hours of extracurricular sport regularly students were significantly less affected by burnout in terms of motivation and their ability to focus despite distraction. They were also less overwhelmed. These observations align perfectly with a 2019 study by the University of California, Berkeley, where they found that students who did 20 minutes of exercise a day had better cognitive functions.

Looking at our Kalibrate-Ed students who did other activities they love, like art classes or regular dog park visits, they also received significant benefits from their extracurricular activities. Participating in things that spark inspiration or joy and are not driven by outcomes or academic demands did a lot to recharge their batteries. From this, parents can go a long way in helping their children identify the kind of activities that would bring them the same effect.

4. Be clear about why they should rest.

Have a conversation and be transparent about your intentions for your child and why they need to take breaks. A lot of people take holidays all the time, saying, “I just need a bit of a break” or “I just need to recharge”, but they don’t do anything to accomplish that. This leaves many people — especially students- who return from breaks wishing it could have lasted longer.

When children understand the reason behind consciously choosing to take a break and breathe, they’ll be able to stick to a good plan and strategy to refuel their batteries and do what it takes to get ready for when they go back to school.

The school holidays are a fantastic time to get ahead and prepare for the next school year. As we reach the end of 2023, let’s make sure you and your child have a plan not just to drop the ball but to recharge so your child has sustainable power for 2024. Allow your child and yourself to breathe and re-energise. Because without a full and sustained power source, you can say goodbye to motivation and hello to a lot more destruction due to procrastination.

If you’re looking for some guidance on how you can start preparing for the year ahead in 2024, our education strategists are available for a free consultation to help you brainstorm a few ideas. Book a brainstorming call with us here: https://calendly.com/kalibrate-ed/lets-chat.