How to Motivate Teens Struggling With Remote School

How to Motivate Teens(tēn) Struggling With Remote School

Getting boys to engage in virtual(ˈvərCH(o͞o)əl) instruction doesn’t have to be a battle. Experts offer tips on how to make virtual school more bearable(ˈberəb(ə)l).

By Julie Jargon

We’re nine months into the pandemic and remote school is wearing on students. Boys, who are at greater risk of falling behind academically(akəˈdemiklē) than girls, are having an especially tough time with all the hours spent behind screens. The challenges of staying focused and motivated in remote school carry even higher stakes(stāk) for adolescent(ˌadəˈles(ə)nt) and teenage(ˈtēnˌāj) boys, who face more academic pressure than younger ones.

I reached out to child psychologists(sīˈkäləjəst) and education experts to find out how parents can help their sons—and daughters—remain focused and motivated in virtual school. They all said the first step is for parents to examine(iɡˈzamən) their own expectations and reactions to their children’s struggles. Here are some key pieces(pēs) of advice(ədˈvīs):

Enlist(inˈlist) your child in developing solutions

“What you need to do as a parent is try to stay away from your own catastrophic(ˌkadəˈsträfik) thinking and use your foremost(ˈfôrˌmōst) consultant(kənˈsəltnt), which is your child himself,” said Michael Thompson, a child psychologist and author of “Raising(rāz) Cain(kān): Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys.” He added, “No one knows more about what he likes and what he hates about school than he does.”

How do you elicit(ēˈlisət) meaningful feedback from an adolescent or teenager who responds with one-word answers? It’s all about how you ask the question. Dr. Thompson suggests saying something like, “I see you’re struggling with math and English. How can I help you with that?”