Parents: Four essential tips for back-to-school success
- Look for the signs of anxiety or distractions
The biggest red flag to look out for are unexplained changes in
behaviour. If your child is displaying signs of mood-swings, is more
irritable or angry, or no longer shows interest in hobbies they used to
enjoy, then anxiety or stress may be the cause. Academic decline is
also a telltale sign of a child being distracted or preoccupied during
lessons, which further indicates stress. Children at younger ages are far less able than adults to identify when they are feeling stressed or anxious, and even older children
who may self-reflect more clearly are likely to find talking to parents
about their stress to be difficult, embarrassing or a source of stress in
its own right. That’s why it’s critical to present options and lower the
barriers to talking about their feelings and worries.
- Give them a diary
A diary is appropriate for older children and teenagers and is an
incredibly powerful tool with dozens of scientifically-proven benefits.
Firstly, they have been shown time and again to be associated with
better writing and higher reading ages. Secondly, writing exercises
creativity and boosts the confidence of your child. Thirdly, they teach
your child two key skills that are often left undeveloped at school: to
work and focus on a task independently, and to think about and
describe their emotions. In the worst-case scenario that your child is anxious or distracted at
school, a diary will both alert you to these worries, and will act as a
therapeutic mechanism for the child, who will be able to write about
and therefore understand the nature and causes of their anxiety, in a
practice known as “naming and taming”. For younger children, consider creating a bedtime routine that incorporates a conversation about what worries they may be having.
This technique is not only going to help ensure your child sleeps
soundly, but help them develop the skills to share their thoughts and
feelings, like a verbal dairy entry. They’ll soon find themselves much
better able than their peers in talking about themselves and in
reflecting on their own experiences.
3 Watch what they eat
That a healthy diet increases performance at school is no secret at
all. Yet many parents are still surprised by just how large the
difference can be. The evidence is so strong that many authorities
provide school meals to those at risk of not eating well enough.
Better diets mean fewer absences from school, more consistent
release of energy to improve focus and avoid mood-swings or “sugar
rushes”. Avoiding sugar as much as possible is a must. Its bad for their
physical health, especially for their teeth, but also interferes with
their learning performance and their mental well-being. Excessive refined sugar can block membranes which slows down neural communication. Waves of high and low glucose levels, which the brain needs to function, means focus can be severely compromised.
Ensuring nutritious foods can be complemented by another tip -
packing some sugar-free gum. After their lunch, chewing gum will
help release saliva to neutralize any acids caused by the breakdown
of sugars, helping keep their teeth healthy. Without sugar, its calorie
free and won’t interfere with blood glucose levels. Moreover,
according to the British Psychological Society (BPS), it can actually
help your child concentrate and increase wakefulness, improving
their performance in those long afternoon classes.
- Sign them up to sports
Sports give every child the opportunity to socialise in a team
environment, but that’s not all. The release of endorphins can
chemically neutralise stress hormone cortisol, and is released when
we do sport. Sport means better focus and fewer distractions in the
classroom, as well as benefits to your child’s ability to play fair and
socialize. Sport is also a long-term investment for your child’s cardiovascular
health. Better blood circulation and fitness grows and improves the
structure of your hippocampus – the brain’s learning and memory
centre. It also improves executive control meaning your child will be
better coordinated and more able to avoid distractions.
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