Sydney, Feb 2: After two years of changing routines, home-schooling, increased and in many cases mandatory device usage, and prolonged social isolation, it’s no wonder that new research from healthcare brand SFI Health – home of Flordis found that two thirds (67 per cent) of Aussies are worried this will have long-term impacts on children’s health and wellbeing in the classroom this year.
When it comes to the back-to-school season, children’s psychologist Deirdre Brandner believes that one of the biggest challenges for students will be maintaining their cognitive health – particularly as it relates to their ability to concentrate, stay focussed and retain the information that has been impacted after months of disrupted learning.
“Children going back to school in 2022 is a welcome relief to many parents, however, there remain some long-term disadvantages of the remote learning experiences,” she said.
“Parents did their very best to engage children in schoolwork during this time, however the reality was that children had to cope with many challenges.
“Managing distractions, adapting to learning online, interrupted routines and lack of structured face to face learning experiences has impacted their cognitive abilities.
“Whilst kids are resilient, it’s important for parents to be conscious of the warning signs that their children are struggling cognitively, such as consistently losing focus, becoming very distracted and unable to sit still, or just generally not learning at the pace they used to be able to.”
When it comes to helping your children gear their brain back into ‘learning mode’ for this back-to-school season, Brandner shares five tips to best support children on their return to school that parents can implement today to set-up them for success in the classroom, so they can function at optimum levels:
Bring back the routine
“We are all guilty of allowing holidays to weaken some of our household rules, in particular, later bedtimes, less monitoring, and increased device time.
However, now is the perfect time to get your children back into some form of everyday routine. Whether that means reinstating bedtimes and wake times, limiting screen time, or scheduling their meals to align with lunch/recess times, all these little routine changes will make a big impact and help your children get back into the right physical and mental mindset for school.”
Start with their nutrition
“I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say most of us indulge a little over the Christmas and holiday season, usually leading to some form of detox when January hits. And whether parents like it or not, it’s nearly impossible to remove the unhealthy food from your child’s plate over Christmas.
A healthy and balanced diet that provides children with the nutrition they need is essential to support them as they go back to school. Studies frequently demonstrate that diet is tied closely to classroom function, so ensure that your child is getting the right balance of food groups that will help them perform at optimal levels in the classroom. As well as the necessary vitamins and minerals, ensure your child is getting the right ratio of omega oils.”
Set some New Year’s goals
“Goal setting is not just for adults. We all love setting some New Year resolutions and plans for the year, so there’s no reason you can’t get your children involved in this as well. Work with them to create a list of what they would want to achieve in 2022. As a family, work together to write these down. Have them positioned in a central place where they can be revisited and rewarded for. By setting goals, you are putting them into a ‘do’ mindset before school even starts. Tying this closely to their own desires and achievements will also really help boost their motivation levels.”
Bring the ‘Band Back Together’ again
“Social anxiety and fears impact children significantly and result in heightened emotions. As such, distraction, poor focus, and concentration can see children struggle cognitively in the classroom. After a long summer break, going back to school and seeing classmates for the first time can really heighten many children’s apprehension and anxiety. So, a great way as a parent to reduce these ‘first day fears’ is to get the band back together and organise play dates with your child and their friends before school goes back. Sharing a school related task, like choosing lunchboxes or stationery with friends can help children feel more comfortable about beginning the new school year. Positive social relationships and management of anxiety will ensure greater learning outcomes for children.”
Reward effort and achievement
“Even for children that love school, going back after a long break can feel overwhelming. Coupled with higher levels of content, a new teacher and classroom, it can be easy for children to remain non-committal and struggling to switch into gear with regards to learning. A great way parents can help set them up before the school year commences is to implement a rewards system that aligns with your child’s interests and tether them to goals. It is important that parents acknowledge the challenges that need to be navigated in the first weeks. For some children this may mean getting tasks completed on time but for others it may be achieving results in reading or spelling. As parents we need to encourage and allow children to reach for their potential by supporting the ‘you can do it’ approach.
If you are noticing signs that your child is struggling cognitively in the classroom for extended periods of time, it is paramount that you seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional such as a GP or pharmacist.”
The Flordis research which was conducted online last month with over 2,000 Australians partaking in the survey also found that:
- One in three Aussies (33 per cent) believe that the various changes to school routines will impact children’s learning, as well as increase their social/general anxiety (23 per cent) and decrease their focus (22 per cent).
- One quarter of parents (23 per cent) identified being unhappy with online learning, as it led to their children being more distracted and unable to focus on the task at hand.
- A large majority (66 per cent) of parents claimed their children spent way too much time on screens during lockdown, which they fear will continue to impact their cognition back at school.
- Ninety six per cent of parents have tried different strategies to help their children reduce screen time including time limits, digital detoxes and tactile activities.
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