My son, Eli, is 13 years old. He loves YouTube videos, on line games and music. Like any normal young teenager, he would much rather pursue these activities than do his homework. And often he will procrastinate with his homework until the last minute then “whip through it” only to discover that his teachers and his parents find this haphazard approach to be sloppy and unacceptable.
So, since the rhythm of the school year is firmly in motion, it’s a good time to lay out some strategies that we use to help our son succeed in school and, hopefully, will help you children as well.
- First and foremost, limit computer, tablet and smart phone screen time. This is probably the most difficult—especially for teen-agers—but also the most important thing to do. Computer time affects attention, sleep, mood and negatively alters brain development.
In an article in Psychology Today by Victoria Dunckley, MD, researchers found, “excessive screen-time appears to impair brain structure and function. Much of the damage occurs in the brain’s frontal lobe, which undergoes massive changes from puberty until the mid-twenties. Frontal lobe development, in turn, largely determines success in every area of life—from sense of well-being to academic or career success to relationship skills. “
- Manage blood sugar swings and crashes. Processed cane sugar and high fructose corn syrup can interfere with concentration. Spacing out, sleepiness, irritability, headaches and light-headedness during the school day are common signs of low blood sugar.
Feed your kids protein for breakfast rather than sugar-sweetened cereal. Easy, protein rich foods include eggs, smoothies (use protein powder), leftovers from dinner (soup or chili), beans (breakfast burritos) and toast with nut butter.
Make sure that they have good healthy snacks and a reasonable lunch. Strategize with your children about what they will eat at and after school so that they have some choice of foods they like.
Also, avoid processed foods. Food colors, additives, and preservatives have been linked to Attention Deficit Disorder.
- At our house, while selecting fonts and font sizing is fun, the act of actually writing a paper is often a challenge. Keys to success include starting early with a cup of honey-sweetened green tea for focus. Tea contains caffeine and L-theanine which stimulate the brain and help a child focus. Don’t do this too late in the day or it may affect sleep. Also, if you don’t do it daily, the effect of the tea will be more dramatic.
Keeping young students focused in class is always a challenge, but doing these simple things can often help. And children, as a general rule respond quickly to life style changes. If they continue to struggle, taking a closer look at food sensitivities and other underlying health issues is probably indicated.
By Jennifer Means, ND, LAc