Many students actually experience ‘the dip‘ from time to time. Parents will usually be the first to notice and won’t necessarily always be able to put their finger on exactly what is happening.
So what is ‘the dip’?
Usually students have the desire to want to do as well at school as they possibly can. They start, a new school year or term, with enthusiasm and usually put in the necessary effort and focus. Sound familiar so far?
At some point though, and for many different reasons, they get about 4-6 weeks in and this starts to change. For students this change is usually first reflected in them not achieving the marks they usually do or that they are capable of getting. For others it can be related to their homework where it is not completed, rushed and done at the last minute, and even handed in late.
It can also be at this time where they can experience and start to demonstrate any number of the following:
- starting to lack motivation,
- getting more distracted,
- beginning to procrastinate,
- struggling to self start,
- having trouble focusing and with their concentration,
- struggling with effort,
- become more unorganised, and
- they can also struggle with a realistic idea of the time and effort needed to complete tasks.
As a result of all of the above, it is not uncommon to see a student also struggle more at this time with overwhelm, stress and anxiety.
Another way to describe ‘the dip‘ is that it is like a road that goes up and down with a lot of dips along the way. For some the dips will be larger than for others. For those students with executive challenges the dip/s can be even more challenging to overcome.
For some students it can be almost complete avoidance and for others the ‘swimming back upstream’ starts where they are keen to get back on top but can often seem to feel they are always playing catch up.
I have seen this dip with several of my students this year and I usually always alert parents to be on the look out for this. In particular, one of my year 9 students recently experienced poor marks at the end of last term. With the support from her parents, teachers and myself, as well as the fact she is taking action, she seems to now be in the process of turning this all around.
What can you do about ‘the dip‘?
The most important step is to initially recognise ‘the dip‘ so that action can be taken to turn things around. For some students it can be caught in time so that with a few changes made they can get back on track relatively easily.
However, for others, there is no easy quick fix and it can be more of a challenge. It often requires quite a bit of time and perseverance from the student in particular. It can also require small little steps to be made rather than expect changes to be sorted all in one go.
Many students will tell their parents to leave them, that they have got everything under control, to stop nagging and to trust me. Sound familiar? Unfortunately for many students though, as noted above, this will keep repeating as they don’t have necessarily have all the skills to deal with the issues at hand. It is useful for me to point out that it usually isn’t because they’d don’t want to or are not trying it is because they don’t know where to start and what to do in order to turn things around.
As a parent, it can be quite a tricky situation as you don’t want to push them, as it will not help, and if anything you are likely to only see more resistance. Conflict can be a challenge in itself to overcome.
Seth Perler, an executive function coach based in the US and regular speaker of ‘the dip‘, highlights that the most important aspect when it comes to overcoming these types of challenges is maintaining your relationship with your child. Therefore it is important, even though you only want the best for your child, to please keep this in mind before just jumping in to try and fix ‘the dip‘.
Steps to take to fix ‘the dip’
In order to have any success in attempting to fix ‘the dip‘, students will need to:
- have the right skills and strategies to change their mindset and deal with their resistance,
- know what the right systems are and to put these in place,
- build back or create new habits and routines, and
- be given practical strategies that will work for them.
One way to do assist with ‘the dip‘, is to acknowledge that your child looks like they are struggling and would they be open to working with you to help them? Ask them what skills do they think they might need and how can we build or work on them together? This approach is more effective than just telling them what they need to be doing – often by adopting this type of approach a student will not listen and usually will in fact dig their heals in even more. As a parent you want to adopt a more empathetic and collaborative approach in order to assist your child with any dips they may be experiencing.
If you give it a try and your approach doesn’t seem to be working or helping your child, like many of the parents I speak to, you might need to seek outside assistance. Most parents, who get in touch with me to work with their child, usually recognise it is likely to be better coming from someone else. This way they are also keeping their relationships in tact by using someone else to deliver the key steps, tools and strategies needed. Even I can relate to this as a parent of two teenage boys who don’t always want to listen to me even though they know deep down it will help them!