With the beginning of the new school year, every parent wants their child to be happy and well-prepared to navigate the challenges of classroom and playground life. But how do you make sure your child is physically and psychologically ready to make the most of the new academic year? We asked the experts to share their top tips for helping your child to reach their full potential…
Help your child adjust to school life
Confidence and friendship are two of the most important factors in re-starting school, especially if it’s a new school or if there have been big changes to the class, says Dr Amanda Gummer, a psychologist specialising in child development, play and parenting (goodtoyguide.com).
Encourage your child to talk about the other children in the class and find friends to invite on a play date,” Gummer says. “Expect your child to be a little unsettled for the first week or two, possibly longer if it’s a new school. Just try to keep everything at home as stable and routine as possible.
Keep an eye out for signs of stress
Introversion and shyness may just be part of a child’s nature but a normally confident child who seems withdrawn may be bottling something up, says Gummer. Rather than asking direct questions, arrange joint activities where you can talk freely and share some of your school memories (good and bad) with your child. A reluctance to go to school may be a normal reaction to not being on school holidays anymore but if it escalates or is prolonged, it might be a sign that something is wrong.
Encourage a good attitude to school
Treat going back to school as matter of fact, says Gummer. Explain that you wouldn’t enjoy holidays as much if you didn’t have school time too. Explain that hard work pays off and use examples from your own life of times you had to work really hard to get something you want.
Don’t focus on grades
Praise effort and attitude rather than results and ensure that your child knows you love them regardless of how well they do in a particular subject, says Gummer.
Communicate and trust your instincts
Communication is key, says Gummer. No one knows your child like you do and if you’re worried, the chances are it’s valid. Talk to your child and if you think they are having problems at school, speak to their teacher.
Jacqui Cleaver and Mary Lou Harris from New You Boot Camp (newyoubootcamp.com) are launching a children’s boot camp for 2014. They say that exercise is key in making sure your child copes with school life. In addition to supporting physical health, regular exercise can improve your child’s concentration and grades at school. Recent research showed that students who took part in a dynamic gym class at the beginning of the day nearly doubled their reading scores, while maths scores increased 20-fold.
Activity battles hyperactivity and emotional disorders
Physical activity helps children who may be restless or hyperactive, or who have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD (hyperactivity and attention deficit disorders), say Harris and Cleaver. Even emotional difficulties have been seen to improve with exercise.
Get your child moving for half an hour every day
Aim to get your child active for at least 30 minutes a day, say Harris and Cleaver. Go back to basics and get them to play in the garden!
Make activity fun
The trick to keeping children interested in exercising at a young age, is to keep it fun, say Harris and Cleaver. Encourage your child to engage in activities that are naturally interesting to them, such as playing on the monkey bars, rollerblading, skateboarding, dancing or playing basketball with friends.
Encourage bursts of exercise throughout the day so your child doesn’t feel as though they’re being pressured or punished.
Make sure your child is eating properly
Cleaver and Harris use the following guide to planning a child’s meal. Portions are measured by children’s hands.
PROTEIN PALM: Each meal should contain a palm full of protein.
FAT FINGERS: Make a circle with the thumb and forefinger. This is the amount of quality fat a child should be eating per meal.
CARB FIST: Measure from the wrist up to gauge the amount of quality carbs a child needs per meal.
FRUIT & VEG WHOLE HAND: Children should be eating enough low sugar fruit and veg to cover the whole hand, including palm and fingers.
Eating three healthy meals a day should mean that your child does not want to snack at school, as their blood sugars will be stable, say Cleaver and Harris.
Remember, children need more of a fat called DHA, which is required for structural growth, as their brains are developing and their bodies are growing so fast. Include coconut oil, oily fish, nuts, seeds, avocados and eggs.