Updated: Jul 27, 2020
A new school year is here. The word “school” can trigger either much excitement or much anxiety/resentment for children. Many students enter our classrooms refreshed from summer break and ready to learn. These students often have their mandatory summer assignments completed and submitted on time. Many others do not, often returning to school feeling resentful, for they dislike waking up early again and they most certainly dislike returning to the rigorous pace of the school day. They struggle from the onset, but often do not admit this or ask for help from teachers. It is very likely that these students also struggle completing homework assignments independently due to inattention or learning difficulties, amongst other possible reasons. This cycle is repeated day in and day out, leading to major unhappiness, frustration, and low self-esteem. Our students deserve more. Regardless of the reason WHY these students struggle, their happiness and well-being are being compromised, which then negatively impacts their ability to function and learn both in and outside of school.
The good news is that academic achievement and happiness can co-exist within our children as long as a handful of habits begin TODAY and are carried out EVERYDAY thereafter. These habits will help reduce their frustration and allow your child to maximize their school day, as well as their time at home. By consistently guiding them as their parents, frustrations will slowly begin to turn around. It is very important not to put an expectation for your child to master these habits. They will take much time to build, so patience is key.
1. Scheduled Homework Time in a Designated Study Space
Afternoons are typically 5-6 hours in length. Parents can plan out their child’s time to exercise, do homework, have family dinner, go to extracurriculars, do chores, and complete the bedtime routine with an hour-by-hour daily calendar. When it is homework time, where will your child complete it? There should be a healthy balance of parents being in close proximity but also the child having the space to work independently, too. The dining room or kitchen table is often very beneficial, not the child’s bedroom, but this is case-by-case. When starting this new habit, sit with your child to unzip the backpack, take out ALL materials, and list out all the homework assignments that need to done that night on a dry erase board...and get to it! If the child thrives off of breaks in between each homework assignment, set a timer for 2 minutes, and get right back on track. When all assignments are done, guide the child to return them to the correct folder/binder and place back into the backpack. Zip up and put by the front door so it’s ready to grab-and-go the following morning for school!
2. Daily Movement
Whether it’s a walk around the block (or two...or three) or putting on a YouTube video in the living room (i.e. yoga, kickboxing, barre, etc), the human brain thrives off of movement, no matter the age and no matter the day of the week! PE class for 30-40 minutes is not enough. Did you know that exercising BEFORE school and BEFORE doing homework increases one’s ability to sustain focus? Sustained focus means completing homework tasks appropriately and entirely. This is every parent (and teacher’s) dream come true! Even more, daily movement is a nice bonding experience for parents to take a walk with their child before homework time, after dinner, or possibly even walk with them to school in the morning.
3. Nutritious Meals and Snacks
The human brain functions at its best when plants, vegetables, beans, proteins, and omega-3 fatty acids are consumed. Fast foods and products purchased in a box or a wrapper do not promote brain function and thus, make it harder for children to function at school and during homework time. A good rule of thumb is to “eat the rainbow’s colors.”
4. Enough Sleep
Every person’s brain and body needs to rest and refuel each night. According to WebMd’s Dr. Amita Shroff, MD, kids need the following range of sleep at the following age ranges:
3-6 years old: 10-12 hours
7-12 years old: 10-11 hours
12-18 years old: 8-9 hours
The is why the above afternoon schedule (Habit #1) is important to plan out ahead of time in order for your child to get to sleep on time. The structure and the predictability of the afternoon/evening routine will also aide in better sleep. And better sleep aides in a peaceful morning and school day to follow, which means greater chances of happiness and ability to learn.
4. Designated Device-Free Time & Designated Charging Station at Bedtime
Devices like smartphones and iPads are everywhere. This is the norm and while it is an absolutely acceptable part of our culture, it is important to evaluate if they are impacting our children’s happiness and well-being. Parents can designate and model putting away devices and turn off screens during family dinner to increase conversation and introspection. It is also advised that children stop using any devices at least one hour before bedtime. Even more, the charging station must remain in the parents’ bedroom, not the kitchen or the child’s bedroom. Devices are very addicting and can compromise the child from getting enough sleep. Our goal is to decrease the likelihood of the child experiencing frustration, fatigue, and stress the following day.
By implementing each one of these habits everyday, your child will ultimately increase their chances of greater academic achievement, and even more importantly, their level of happiness and overall well-being at school and at home.