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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Prepare Now: How to Get Teens to Focus with Homework

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Jul 27th 2010

teen pressureIn my private practice I work with teens and adults. One of the most prevalent issues I hear from the teens (or more often their parents) is the difficulty the teen has in completing their schoolwork or focusing in general. Not only does there seem to be an increase in anxiety among teens nowadays because of increased competition, among other things, there are so many wonderful distractions nowadays with texting friends, Facebooking friends, playing games on the phone, listening to music on the phone, did I mention playing with the phone? Yes, the phone has become quite a source of connection and distraction for teens. So, in preparation for working with teens in this upcomign school year, I asked Gina Biegel, LMFT, author of The Stress Reduction Workbook for Teens how she works with teens to help them focus to get their homework done.

In her book, Gina has a practice called Doing Schoolwork Mindfully and when I asked her about this for an upcoming interview, she said:

"I encourage teens that have difficulties with focus, concentration, and/or overload from anxiety before a test or with doing homework, to first start and just notice their breath as it already is.  This will first, connect their head to their body, and if they are noticing their breath they hopefully aren't noticing worry thoughts or focus on self-judgments that they "can't pay attention," etcetera and to take a break from these thoughts even if for a brief moment.  Once they have noticed a few breaths, I encourage them to do a brief body-scan meditation, and I will offer this meditation in the room with them.  Next, I ask them to visualize taking the test or doing their homework, and to see them completing it with ease and to remind themselves that they can do their best.  This can assist in reducing the added pressure they have from themselves and from their parents.  Once they have gone through this process, they can then begin, and if they start noticing difficulty again, to take a pause and go through this process again.  It is also a practice in being kind to the self.  For more details on this practice, teens can follow Activity 18 in my workbook or audio track 13."

There you have it. If you have a teen or work with teens, have them try these few steps out. If you need support in these guided practices there are many audio guided CDs to choose from or Gina has her own CD Mindfulness for Teens that you can pick up.

What works for you with teens? Please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Focus Issues - kim crockett - Oct 16th 2012

It seems the problem is compounded by all the technology-shouldn't we seek to turn it off? How is Facebook, Iphone and other screens affecting their brain and thought process? It cannot be good. 

How writing down goals, plans, and blocking distractions can help. - - Nov 20th 2010

It can help teenagers to focus on homework by writing down their goals and keeping them on their desk. Before each homework session, the student can write a plan for the 1-2 hours, outlining the topics they want to study and how much time will be spent on each. Blocking distractions will also help: switching off the computer and telephones and putting them away would help, but if the computer is needed for research then Homework Focus will help to block distracting websites such as Facebook, without blocking research sites.

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