Focus! Taming the Holiday Jitters

By: Jolene Roehlkepartain

Both kids and adults find it difficult to focus when we're nervous or excited. The upcoming holidays (and holiday break for kids) can exasperate excitement and cause kids to lose focus at school. Research reveals: there are many things a parent can do to help ease the jitters and help your child succeed in school. Get jitter-taming tips! >

Why is self-control so important?

In the video below, Brain Development expert, Dr. David Walsh talks about the "marshmallow experiment" and why it's important for kids to have self-control.

Help your kids work on their self-control by acknowledging that they might be going through a tough time. It’s difficult to focus on your work when you’re excited about an upcoming event, such as a holiday. However, it’s important to set boundaries. Maybe you and your child decide that there’s no TV or computer time until homework is done (and done well). Some families limit electronic use greatly during the school week and then allow their kids to have more time with electronics during the weekend—if they’re doing well with their schoolwork.

Here are some other things you can do-- all year long-- to help your child focus in school

Read to your child all year long. Study after study shows that when parents read to their children and make reading a priority in their family, they’re more likely to raise kids who succeed in school.

Talk with your kids about school. This time of year is generally busy for everyone--parents included. Research also shows that parents who are involved in their kids’ education (by talking about the school day each day and by knowing what homework they have and making sure it gets done) are also more likely to parent kids who do well in school.

Do homework with your kids. Sit right next to them. Help them with their homework. Then once they get going, you can focus on your own work: whether that’s work you have from the office, getting ready for the holidays, or something else that you need to do. Research has shown that above-average and average students are more likely to do homework with a parent than by themselves.

Often these boundaries and expectations help to keep your kids on track at school. If they’re not, it’s time to revisit them and see what changes need to be made to help keep your kids focused. Focus and restraint are important skills to teach kids. While it may take a while for kids to master this skill, when they do, it will help them in many ways--as kids--and when they become adults.



1. Peter C. Scales and Nancy Leffert, Developmental Assets: A Synthesis of the Scientific Research on Adolescent Development (Minneapolis: Search Institute, 1999).

2. School Success, ParentFurther.

3. Image via jeffkarpala on Flick'r.

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