Increasing Happiness for the Struggling Student

Kerri Russel, Meridian LearningIt is heartbreaking to witness a struggling student who works hard but feels like a failure.  We can assume most parents want their children to hit the expected milestones, achieve success and feel good about themselves.  When they do not, it can be difficult for parents to know how to help.

When establishing educational goals for your child or adolescent, think about where you want them to be at the age of 22.  Assuming you want good health, happiness and independence, consider what tools and guidance can be provided now that opens the door to these possibilities.  What skills can they learn today to make this achievable?

Ideas and suggestions

  • Be sure to include ample opportunity for them to do what they love.  Encourage them to spend time on things that bring joy.  Are there ways to incorporate what they enjoy into their schoolwork?
  • Tap into their talents and gifts and develop and nurture these.  We can too often focus on strengthening the weaknesses and do not spend enough time strengthening the strengths. What if we nurtured the gifts of our young people?  It takes 10,000 hours to be an expert in something.  Are we spending 10,000 hours on what the child/adolescent can’t do well, or what he or she can do well?

Important considerations at school

  • Learning something new takes brain work and can be tiring.  Can your child have “brain brakes” throughout the school day and at home?  Think of a time when you were training for a new job position.  Do you remember being exhausted when you came home those first few weeks? This may be what your child/adolescent experiences daily.
  • For a student who struggles completing homework in a reasonable amount of time, ask the teacher(s) how much time is expected on nightly homework.  If your child/adolescent is taking much longer on assignments than their classmates, the teacher may be able to make adjustments, reducing the workload a bit without compromising the integrity of the lessons.
  • Is it possible for the student to reduce the amount of new information to be learned at once?  This allows them to learn material well, as opposed to partially understanding it, otherwise they can reach a saturation point that can lead to frustration and overwhelm.

Important note: Communicating with teachers is critical so they are aware of how your child/adolescent is doing at home.  Quite often your son or daughter can hold it together throughout the school day then fall apart at home.  As far as the teacher(s) knows, their student is working hard and trying their best, without realizing they are overextended and overwhelmed.  You may find that one or two simple adjustments can make a significant difference and require little effort from you or the teacher.

3 thoughts on “Increasing Happiness for the Struggling Student

  1. I have been teaching mindfulness to my 6th graders and two came up to me today and said they didn’t like it and isn’t it against Christianity ? Help should I put something together for parents ? Should I talk to the principal any suggestions of what to say is appreciated 🙂

  2. Hi Mariette,

    If you posted this Sept. 21st, I apologize for such a delayed response. I just received notification a comment was waiting!

    We are the trailblazers and this question is coming up frequently as parents, students and educators are being introduced to mindfulness. I encourage you to share with parents the concepts of mindfulness, the benefits and how it is being incorporated into your classroom. You can emphasize the proven neuroscience studies on what happens to the brain. You do not need to share what it is not, because that brings in a different energy that may send red flags. Just state what it is. You may want to share with your parents that with today’s stress-levels, and the current research on the brain, findings are significant that students are benefiting from taking a few minutes out of their day to rest, rejuvenate and calm their brains. Tell your parents we are learning about the parts of the brain and what we can do to keep our minds in check so we can increase our focus and attention. We are always telling our students to pay attention, but we don’t teach them how. This school year we are teaching your child tools to learn how they can better pay attention and be mindful about how they learn, and what they can do to calm the part of their brain responsible for the fight, flight, freeze or faint (the amygdala) which is often overactive during our stressful lives, and increase the functionality of our pre-frontal cortex, which is where our planning, organizing and short-term memory is located. The more active the amygdala is, the less available our pre-frontal cortex is to us, and the less focused we are.

    If you don’t already have it, you may want to investigate the MIndup curriculum. It is very school-friendly, and gives excellent information. It’s only about $20.00 per age group. I am also part of a List Serv you can join where teachers are dialoguing extensively about this topic. Email me and I will get that to you. There are also many articles on the subject, but quite a few use the word meditation. If you haven’t already, you can visit my Facebook page where I post articles as I find them and you can gather the information you find most useful.

    You can make mindfulness optional so for those students who are uncomfortable with it, they have a choice to not participate. Maybe they can have quite time at their desk where they journal or listen to quiet music?

    Thank you for your question and I hope this helps you!


  3. I really appreciate the points you made in the article. It provided some concrete suggestions I will take to heart and implement with my kids. I would appreciate being on the listserv you mentioned too if that is possible. Mindfulness is a topic I am very interested in.

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