For many students, staying focused on school is already a struggle. At school, social drama, friends, and doodles drawn in the margins of a notebook can be a distraction. At home, there is the Internet, television, social life, and more taking attention away from homework. Now throw in the added distraction (distraction being an understatement!) of divorce into the mix. When home life seems to fall apart, school can seem of little importance. Why bother learning the days of week in Spanish, when you do not even know the next day of the week you will see your mom or dad? It is easy to let grades slip, books remain unopened, and homework go unfinished when life begins to rapidly change.
Struggling to find the importance of school during divorce is understandable. However, it is vital students of all ages stay focused on school despite the disruption. Each grade level offers preparation for the future so staying focused on school keeps your future on track. Here are some of the strategies I personally used that may help you stay focused on your education rather than what is going on at home:
Keep the School Informed
Have a parent or guardian write a note, send an e-mail, or even set up a meeting with a homeroom teacher or guidance counselor informing the school of what is going on at home. Do not expect any sudden leniency because of this. Do not expect a lighter amount of homework than the other students. Do not expect favoritism. Teachers will still expect all work to be completed with effort. However, once aware of the situation, a teacher can be more sensitive to a students change in mood, behavior, or work if they understand what may be driving these changes.
Having an adult at school who is aware of the situation can also provide you with someone to confide in that offers a different, more mature perspective than your peers. That school official can also give you an opportunity to talk to someone during school hours. At times, school can feel like a prison, especially when the world outside feels as if it is crumbling and you are stuck in class. When suddenly weighed down by home-related issues, take time to sit and talk with your well-informed teacher or school counselor. This will make school more of an escape from home-related stress, allowing you to focus on school. You may also feel too awkward or embarrassed to discuss some of these issues with your friends. Friends may not yet be mature enough to sympathize and offer advice. Having a confidant outside of the family (a teacher or guidance counselor) can help more than you might think.
Maintain a Routine
School ends and maybe you have band practice, rehearsal, or a baseball game, but eventually we all must go home. Once home, eat dinner right away, then unpack those books and get to work. Make this your routine and do not give yourself the chance to get overwhelmed by worry or stress. Visualize the relaxation that will come after finishing your homework. Keeping a routine will allow you to focus on the task at hand: schoolwork. Gradually, as you settle into the routine of completing schoolwork as soon as you arrive home, you will be able to focus more easily. There will be time for worrying about mom and dad later (how to deal with that worrying is a problem all its own).
Avoid these afterschool activities that can easily lead to more worrying and less working:
- Napping immediately after school or close to bedtime
- Binging television shows instead of completing schoolwork
- Staying up well into the AM completing schoolwork
- Aimlessly browsing the web
- Spending hours on social media
Listen to music while doing schoolwork
If the house is too hectic, put on some headphones! While you might prefer quiet in order to fully focus, when silence is not an option, music is a good replacement. Music can help block out the rest of the world and let you focus on what is currently in front of you: schoolwork. If you find lyrics too distracting, try something instrumental; you may even end up refining your musical tastes and your grades. If lyrics are too distracting and instrumental music is not for you, try playing the score from a favorite movie or television show.
Form a study group
Form a study group with reliable friends when being at home makes it impossible to focus on schoolwork. Being around friends will help take your mind off troubles at home while also allowing you to complete your schoolwork and have fun in the process. This is really useful when midterms and finals are approaching, as these large exams lend themselves to group studying. Try these fun strategies for group studying:
- Index cards
- Split into two groups and challenge each other
- Reward yourselves with fifteen minutes of talk for every hour spent studying
- Think of a fun game that matches your group’s interests and personalities
Think of the future
Thinking of the future can give you the drive needed to focus on schoolwork. Putting in effort at school, possibly even excelling in school, leads to opportunities down the road that can make life easier. Think of scholarships. Think of college admissions chasing you. Think of looking at your accomplishments in your education with pride. Thinking of this bright future, developed through a focus on school, can make the present a little less dire.
Keep a positive mindset
Do not get caught up on what is going on at home. Yes, it is important and, yes, it affects you but it is out of your control. Keep in mind that worrying about things that are out of your control is useless and detrimental. Stay positive and know that the future is bright. Always remind yourself that everything will be fine. With a positive attitude about all aspects of life, including your parent’s divorce, you will be able to focus on schoolwork.
Do something you enjoy and then get to work
Take time for yourself and do something comforting that you enjoy, like watching your favorite movie that always makes you laugh and never changes. Settle down with a good book and get lost in the words on the page. Take a break from reality and return to it fully revived and ready to tackle both schoolwork and your home life.
Following these strategies will help keep your focus on schoolwork during difficult times at home. Going through a divorce is big, scary, and life changing but it in no way lowers the importance of education. Surround yourself with friends. Keep a routine. Talk to your teachers. Escape with music. Think of the future. Stay positive. Stay relaxed. Try out the strategies that worked for me, and then develop your own. Everyone handles things differently, so find out what helps you handle your schoolwork.