Help Kids into Learning Mode

The research, conducted with over 2000 Australians, also found:

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• One in three Aussies (33{416f1f5c7a203fe63a46bf082b58feb26f91befb8fc9f4680189d6e9c71a298c}) believe the various changes to school routines will impact children’s learning, as well as increase their social/general anxiety (23{416f1f5c7a203fe63a46bf082b58feb26f91befb8fc9f4680189d6e9c71a298c}) and decrease their focus (22{416f1f5c7a203fe63a46bf082b58feb26f91befb8fc9f4680189d6e9c71a298c}).

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• One quarter of parents (23{416f1f5c7a203fe63a46bf082b58feb26f91befb8fc9f4680189d6e9c71a298c}) identified being un happy with online learning, as it led to their children being more distracted and unable to focus on the task at hand.

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• A large majority (66{416f1f5c7a203fe63a46bf082b58feb26f91befb8fc9f4680189d6e9c71a298c}) 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.

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• 96{416f1f5c7a203fe63a46bf082b58feb26f91befb8fc9f4680189d6e9c71a298c} 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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When it comes to the back-to-school season, leading children’s psychologist Deirdre Brandner believed one of the biggest challenges for students would be maintaining their cognitive health – particularly as it related to their ability to concentrate, stay focussed and retain the information that had been impacted after months of disrupted learning.

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“Children going back to school in 2022 is a welcome relief to many parents, however, there remains some long-term disadvantages of the remote learning experiences,” she said.

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“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.

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“While 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 to the pace they used to be able to.”

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When it comes to helping your children gear their brain back into ‘learning mode’ for this back-to-school season, Brandner shared five tips to best support children after their recent return to school that parents could implement so they could function at optimum levels:

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1. Bring back the routine

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“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.”

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2. Start with their nutrition

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“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.”

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A healthy and balanced diet that provides children with the nutrition they need is essential to support them back at school. Studies frequently demonstrate that diet is tied closely to classroom function, so ensure 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 which support healthy brain function and learning development.

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3. Set some New Year’s goals

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“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. Tying this closely to their own desires and achievements will also really help boost their motivation levels.”

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4. Bring the ‘Band Back Together’ again

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“Social anxiety & 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 people/ classmates for the first time can really heighten many children’s apprehension and anxiety. So, a great way as a parent to reduce these fears is to get the band back together and organise play dates with your child and their friends. Positive social relationships and management of anxiety will ensure greater learning outcomes for children.

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5. Reward effort and achievement

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“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 is to implement a rewards system that aligns with your child’s interests and tether them to goals.

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It is important that parents acknowledge the challenges that need to be navigated. 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.”

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If you are noticing signs that your child is struggling cognitively in the classroom for extended periods of time, it is paramount you seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional such as a GP or pharmacist.

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