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The Dynamics of Children and School

2018 October 1 by

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Another school year for kids and parents, and we recognize the patterns and flow of school life. For young children this entails social interactions with friends, getting used to schedules, and becoming engaged in learning. This is such a complicated process filled with excitement, inspiration, and frustrations. It involves recognizing the priorities of academics, hobbies, activities, and relationships. And that’s just for those who are flowing well through the program of school. For many children, school is stressful or even painful. So many factors can be deterrents to engagement, especially for those children who find it difficult (or boring) to sit still at a confining desk for extended periods of time. For students who enjoy prolonged periods of quiet and focused attention, school can be a haven. Others may feel socially awkward, shy, or out of place. They may have other pressing interests besides the typical subjects taught in school. And a large percentage of children have high kinetic energy and difficulty remaining in one place for long. They function best through exploration of their environment and hands-on interactions. Unfortunately, they are often labeled as being distracted or disruptive. And some even get a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD. Others have completely different styles of relating to the world, and they get put on an autism spectrum or diagnosed with a condition such as Asperger’s syndrome.

Every child has a distinctive and individual style of learning that needs to be honored and respected. Every child has unique gifts and talents, and these may not fit easily into the mold of the school model. It falls upon parents to recognize and cultivate these gifts. All too often we focus on perceived weaknesses and faults, giving negative feedback and corrections, forgetting that children need love, nurturing, recognition, and encouragement. Many children see themselves as failing, not rising to expectations of their own or the adults around them. They see their interests and pursuits as private havens when they should actually be celebrated. It is often hard for us as parents to strike the balance between trying to keep kids on track in the grooves of schedules and schoolwork and actually enjoying life.

Here are some suggestions.

  • Have periodic conversations with children about their interests, whether those are music, video games, imaginative play, animals, or hobbies. Show your interest in their private pursuits. This points to the value of their inner life and can help to foster their passions.
  • Communicate with teachers about your child’s strengths and interests so that he or she can play to these strengths.
  • Avoid struggles over homework. You are not responsible for getting homework done. And keep in mind the myth of homework. Studies have shown that homework accomplishes very little. It creates conflict and tension in families and serves little positive purpose.
  • Enjoy your children. Cultivate your appreciation of their amazing personalities and talents.
  • Cultivate your own patience and forbearance. It may seem like your children are intent on driving you crazy, but they just want to have fun.
  • Children will actually learn responsibility without your nagging. They will learn how to get assignments turned in by the time they get to high school. They will learn that they need to show up for work once they are on their own. They will be fine. Let them learn.
  • Remember that life is fleeting. Teachers come and go. Struggles are inevitable and mean very little.
  • Pay attention to the moment. That’s where children live. Take them as your role models.
  • You may also want to review this article about recognizing your children’s strengths.

 

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Back to school resolutions

2015 August 12 by

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Here are some suggestions for the beginning of the year and all through the next school year. If your children go to school, remember that you are the managers of your child’s education. Teachers come and go. You are the mainstay and constant. You understand best what your child needs. And you can help teachers to maximize your child’s educational experience. If you homeschool, then you already know that you are the one responsible for creating success.

The primary goal for school is to have fun. If your child thinks that school is fun and she looks forward to going in the morning, then you can feel reassured that something is right. If your child thinks that school is boring, then there is a problem. If your child says she hates school, then something is definitely wrong.

Don’t take things too seriously

I will repeat. School should be fun. Children generally like school because they get to socialize and learn stuff too. It’s exciting to learn new material. If schoolwork is difficult, then reassure your children that it will get easier over time and they can get help to understand things better.

Eat healthy meals

Most children eat breakfast at home. If they do, then you have the ability to provide them with a healthy start to the day. Try to avoid cold cereal. Children like it and it’s easy, but processed grains in the form of flakes and puffed cereal are depleted of nutritional value. And sweetened cereals are full of empty calories and lead to low blood sugar by midmorning. Offer kids hot cereal, eggs with vegetables or cheese, yogurt and fruit, and whole grain breads. Ethnic foods like Mexican huevos rancheros or Indian curry and rice often go over well, and lots of children eat these dishes every morning.

Pack a nutritious lunch with cut up fruit and veges and yogurt and sandwiches. Avoid the prepackaged fruit rolls and desserts. Make some cookies with your kids. Help them make wise decisions about a healthy lunch and get creative with sushi and granola and trail mix. And keep it fun and varied.

Get sleep

Children need rest. Turn off the screens an hour before bed and relax with a story. Don’t forget the bedtime rituals of a hot bath and a snack and cuddling with a good book. School-age children and teens need 8-10 hours of sleep. Sleep is more important than grades.

Don’t stress about homework

Homework arguments are a huge stressor for families. Believe it or not, no one has ever shown that homework improves learning. But most schools have a minimum homework requirement for teachers. Parents often find themselves in the position of doing their children’s homework after protracted struggles and tears. If homework doesn’t get finished, it’s not the end of the world.

Help the teacher understand your child

Teachers have a classroom full of kids. It is a hard job to get to know each one’s learning style and personality. If your child has a particular style of learning, then tell the teacher. Put yourself in the position of making her job easier. You know your child. If she needs help to stay on task, then inform the teacher of what you have learned about the best way to make that happen. You know if your child is a visual or auditory learner, if she responds well to praise, or needs hands-on tasks or frequent breaks. Share what you know about your child’s individual needs and most teachers will be grateful for the help. If you have the ability and time, volunteer in the classroom. This is a great way to observe the dynamics of the classroom, and teachers will appreciate your generosity of spirit.

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Back to School

2013 August 14 by

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Time again to buy school supplies and pack off your kids to the first day of the next year of school. Here is a checklist to help set them on the right path this year.

School lunches

Talk to your kids about healthy foods that they will actually eat in their lunches. This is a good opportunity to discuss processed and whole foods choices. Fruits and cut up veges that contain antioxidants and vitamins are preferable to foods that contain chemical additives and added sugar. Explain that corn syrup is not an ingredient they want to include in their lunch choices. Sandwiches with whole grain bread and nut butters or cheese, meats, and veges are a good choice, or wraps that include vegetables will provide some variety. Snacks of dried fruits and nuts or granola bars are also healthy options. Be creative and let your kids suggest possibilities. You might be surprised by some of their new preferences this year.

Vaccinations

Schools will urge you to get the latest boosters of various vaccines including measles, whooping cough, and Gardasil (HPV). Don’t be bullied into getting any vaccines that you question. You can always obtain a waiver for any vaccines you don’t want. Research the specific vaccines and decide whether they are right for you. Trust your own judgment once you have done your research. Read the sections of vaccine choice books like the Vaccine Guide to decide where you stand on a particular vaccine.

Learning issues

If any issues around learning skills (reading or writing or math), achievement, or attention came up during the last school year, be prepared in advance to address these with your child’s new teacher. Take a proactive approach to inform the teacher about any concerns you may have. You may want to consider starting some nutritional supplements that optimize brain function. These could include fish oil with at least 400 mg of DHA and Phosphatydilserine ( 100 mg) for attention. Other supplements can be useful for maximizing attention functions if you have concerns. Check out my educational presentations on learning and attention at the CureChild website.

Homework help

Start getting prepared for homework. Establish a homework time schedule taking into account after-school activities. Get some hourly planning sheets so your child can plan out the evening. Have your student estimate how long their assignments should take and write in specific subjects on a time planner. This will make your child responsible for homework estimation and completion.

Sleep schedules

Getting a good night sleep will help ensure alertness, efficient learning, better ability to focus, and success in school. This means at least 8 -10 hours of sleep for your school-aged child. Make some rules about a time to turn off screens and a time for lights out.

Physical exams and health forms

Get all of those forms together for the school year and make sure you have a check-up form completed by your doctor if your packet includes one. For patients in my practice I reserve time in my schedule for those last minute physicals.

Long distance medical care

I am available for Skype or Facetime visits for anyone who lives outside of the San Francisco Bay Area. Send me an email at CureGuide@gmail.com to set up a consultation. We can discuss your child’s learning issues, or immune function, or any medical problems.

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