Summertime is coming to an end, and with that comes all of the back to school anxiety and jitters that are common amongst children. Your child may experience common physical effects of anxiety associated with back to school time including symptoms from stomachaches to sleeping problems. They will also experience emotional stress from the fear of making new friends, meeting new teachers, fears of being bullied, the pressure of making good grades, and worries of being unpopular. With that said, it important for parents to first remember that these physical and emotional feelings are very common, and even the most well-adjusted kids are bound to feel some sort of pressure when they return to school.
The question becomes: what can parents do to help their children cope with the physical and emotional stresses associated with the back to school season? In this article, I will provide you with some tips that I’ve shared with parents in the past that have deemed to be very helpful.
Tip #1: Put your child on a healthy sleeping pattern right away!
Children need at least 8 to 10 hours of REM sleep each night. Children that do not get adequate sleep the night before tend to be groggy, grumpy, and thus have a harder time concentrating in class, not to mention tend to become more sensitive to social disputes. Sleep also contributes to a healthier immune system. You can help your child enter each school day with a more energetic and positive approach simply by making sure they get the right amount of sleep each night.
Here’s how to set a healthy sleeping pattern with your children:
1. Establish a set bedtime and wake time for the weekdays.Make sure that you specify that this time is non-negotiable.
2. Set up some rules for 1 hour prior to bedtime.There are many things that can affect how well your children sleep at night. If you set up some ground rules, then you’ll see better sleeping habits:
~Make sure they eat dinner no later than 1 hour prior to bedtime. If they eat just before bedtime, then chances are they will not fall asleep right away. Your child can have a warm glass of milk just before bed if they are hungry.
~Cut out all physical activities no later than 1 hour prior to bedtime. Children need adequate downtime to get their heart rate down.
~Cut out any intense “stimulating” activities no later than 1 hour prior to bedtime. This includes video games and computers. Both can be very addictive and keep your child’s mind over-stimulated even after they’ve stopped.
3. Establish a 20 – 30-minute nightly “calm-down” bedtime routine.
The routine should include taking a bath, putting on their pajamas, reading, and other relaxing activities. TV viewing at bedtime is not recommended because it may affect your child’s ability to fall asleep.
Tip #2: Put your child on a brain-strengthening diet.
Not all diets are for weight loss. Even children that have great athletic physiques are susceptible to the after-effects of poor eating habits, including fatigue, anxiety, poor concentration, and mood swings. You can help your child feel better each school day simply by adjusting their diet and getting rid of foods and snacks that are counter-productive.
Here are some healthy eating tips:
1. Purge the bad foods in your house.
Open your refrigerator and get rid of the foods you know are unhealthy for your children including sodas, snacks that are high in sugar, and foods that are high in fat.
2. Create a healthy menu.
Sit down with your child and create a breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snack menu together. Create at least three different healthy meals for breakfast, lunch, and snack time and allow them to choose what they want to eat each day. If your children help with the process, they will be more intrinsically motivated to stick with the diet. You can make it fun by having them design a fun menu with their meal options and also have them go to the grocery store and help pick out all of the ingredients. If you are struggling with how to create a proper diet, do some research or speak with a licensed dietician that can help make a list of heart and brain-healthy foods.
3. Lead by example.
If your children see you eating unhealthy foods then you are contradicting what you say. Children are smart, and they will fight you on this subject if you don’t lead by example yourself. On the bright side, this is a great way for you to maintain a healthy lifestyle too!
Tip #3: Make sure your child feels comfortable communicating with you
Communication is crucial when it comes to all of the challenges your child will face each day at school. It is important for your child to feel comfortable speaking with you about bullies, fears, and anxieties. You can turn any challenge around if you set it up right.
Here are some important tips for helping your child feel comfortable about communication:
1. Never ignore your child’s anxieties or stresses.
This is a crucial mistake that many parents make, and most of the time it is on accident. Sometimes parents get tangled up with all of their own responsibilities that they brush aside situations brought up by their child that don’t seem important. What you need to remember is: EVERYTHING your child says to you is important to them.
2. Ask them about their day to keep an open dialog.
Sometimes children hold back sharing their fears and anxieties simply because they don’t want to bother you. By asking them how their day was and if there was anything they wanted to talk about, you are showing them you care.
3. Try to put their anxieties and stresses into a perspective that they understand.
For example, everyone is bullied at one point in their life. If your child’s stress is about bullying, share your bullying experience and let them know that you understand how they feel and then provide a simple solution that they can handle.
Tip #4: Continually seek opportunities that increase your child’s self-confidence
The very best thing you can equip your child with is self-confidence. There is absolutely no substitute for self-confidence. Let me repeat that because this line is very important: There is absolutely NO substitute for self-confidence! Confident children face every day with a positive outlook and tend to have better grades, more friends, and less stress.
Here are some tips for increasing your child’s self-confidence:
1. Help them find their inner talents.
Everyone has an inner passion or ability that they can sink their teeth into. This includes sports, music, reading, writing, arts, etc. Ask them what their favorite hobby is or interest, and then find a way to help them pursue their passion. Don’t ignore their requests to play the piano, or pick up a new sport. Just remember that if they do find a passion make sure you help them follow-through. Some children tend to get lazy simply because they lack motivation. It is up to you to keep them motivated.
2. Find positive role models.
Coaches, tutors, and babysitters can have a positive influence on your child’s life. In fact, many children will listen or open up to their role models more so than they do to you because they feel a special bond between them. This is not a bad thing! Think about the special people that you confide in. I bet you have special people besides your parents that have helped shape your life. Don’t be afraid to cut the cord and let your children seek inspiration from other people that you know are great role models for them.
3. Remind them every day of how special they are. Confidence begins at home. Praise their efforts and accomplishments whether they are big or small. You don’t have to go overboard but you don’t want to let the little opportunities that build your child’s confidence slip by you.
Reflect back to when you were a child and think of how you would have parented yourself. What would you do differently than your parents? What would you do the same? Life is a mystery and an adventure. Both good and bad experiences are part of life and can help you understand your children a little better. Keep this article somewhere special and read it when you feel like you need a little parenting boost. Hopefully one day you’ll share these tips with your child as they enter adulthood and become parents too.
If you would like to enroll your child in a Martial Arts program, check out our school here .
Children between the ages of five and six years old are no longer “little kids.” They are in a very important transition in their lives. They have developed skills that make them appear to have things more together, so they are often approached by adults as an “older kid.” However, they still do not have the basic skills necessary to keep up with the older children.
Between the ages of five and six years old, children are very enthusiastic. Their language skills have increased, and they are able to pay attention for longer periods of time. They are developing thinking and reasoning skills and have gotten better at seeing other people’s point of view. All of this increases their autonomy and gives them a sense of independence.
And while these new, more mature skills are exciting to see 5- and 6- year old’s develop, they often come with a “know it all” kind of attitude. At this age, children begin testing the boundaries of rules set in place due to their increased thinking skills. They also begin talking back because they now have a more expansive vocabulary to express their opinions with. But despite these more developed thinking and language skills, children at this age may still whine or have meltdowns occasionally.
Five and six-year-old’s also enjoy the spotlight but tend to lack proper sportsmanship. Because of this, they may accuse others of cheating during games or get upset when they don’t win.
Five- and six- year old’s need adults in their lives that understand this unique transition period. They want guidance and structure and their confidence increases by making mentors proud. However, they tend to act silly when they are nervous or excited and they do not take well to criticism. For these reasons, the best approach is the use of positive reinforcement with them. Praising the good behavior that they exhibit will increase their confidence and, therefore, increase the likelihood of their negative behaviors being more manageable. It is also important for adults to be mindful when voicing expectations so that these children learn that privileges are earned by making appropriate choices.
Our program was created for this age group to target their stage of development in a manner that adapts to their social and intellectual curiosity while, at the same time, building skills that set them up for success. In each class, students are encouraged to take turns and learn to compromise. They also learn how to win and lose gracefully. In addition, the Mr. Clemmer is trained to utilize the 10 Laws of Instruction in each class while teaching the skills that are specifically designed to help with the development of 5 and 6-year-old’s. Their skill development is rewarded in each class, which keeps them excited and ready to learn more.
Understanding the struggles of development that 5 and 6 year old’s are faced with is essential for the adults in their lives. Giving them the ability to make choices is vital to continuing the development of their autonomy. However, it is also essential to keep boundaries in check. Remember to not take things personally when a challenge presents itself and you will be able to respond more appropriately with this newfound insight and clarity.
Endorphins are natural chemicals produced in the body to reduce pain and boost happiness. They are most often associated with exercise since the release of these “feel-good” chemicals cause a state of euphoria and is usually known as a “runner’s high.” However, most any exercise will cause this state of happiness and it is also boosted through laughter and excitement.
In recent years, studies involving endorphins have begun to focus on how this chemical contributes to learning. Physical activity is essential to brain development. Basically, when we feel good, we learn better. Intellectually stimulating the brain when endorphins have been released, helps even more. For the last five years, neuroscientists have been encouraging parents and teachers to work on stimulating the good feeling chemicals in the brain. The mind-body connection is a powerful thing.
When working with children and teens, it’s important to remember this and help develop the whole self. By stimulating the positive neurotransmitters in the body, we will combat the cortisol and, therefore, have more happy children and teens. Physical activity leads to happiness, happiness leads to better learning, better learning leads to increased knowledge, increased knowledge leads to more confidence and so on.
Now that we understand the neuroscience surrounding endorphins, how can we, as parents, teachers, coaches, and anyone who works with children, use this information? We must create a learning environment that releases endorphins so that students apply more effort and are better able to focus.
Our program does this by teaching with the brain in mind and utilizing game-based learning. Along with this, two of the teaching skills that are used in class are specifically designed to increase the students’ endorphin levels.
1) Up The Rep: The use of “up the rep” as a teaching skill in class helps the students have more energy throughout an exercise, which ultimately leads to them exhibiting more effort. For example, if students are practicing side kicks on a bag and they are told to do 50, the goal is for the 50th kick to be the best one. However, students often start out full speed and their energy depletes as they get closer to the 50th rep. The best thing to do is have them start out their reps easier and increase their power as they get to 50. That way they end with their best one yet! This gives the students a rush of endorphins and they finish the exercise feeling stronger.
2) Neurobics: The use of “neurobics” in class helps the students by increasing their neural stimulation and, therefore, they become more focused. For example, if the students are doing pushups, instead of counting to 10, count in colors or characters, or even count backwards. This will increase the neural firing in their brains and keeps their minds from wondering.
By utilizing these techniques, the endorphins in the students’ brains increase, and then they feel better and, therefore, learn better. The combination of having more energy and being cognitively stimulated leads to more effort and focus in class!
Have you ever had a “gut feeling” about something? Have you ever considered that children have these as well? Of course they do! The problem is, they don’t know how to express this to us. They know something doesn’t feel right, so they act out or exhibit a grumpy mood. The good news is, there is a way to boost their mood and reinforce positive behavior choices.
Serotonin, also known as the “feel good” neurotransmitter, plays a part in our wellbeing and is important in balancing mood. Ninety percent of the serotonin in our bodies is produced in the gut. This is because the gut and the brain were developed from the same embryo cell line and continue to communicate through the vagus nerve. This explains why the gut is often referred to as the “second brain” and where the phrase “gut feeling” comes from.
In recent studies serotonin levels have been found to also affect memory and learning. In addition to this, it helps build new neuropathways in the brain which supports the ability to learn new information more quickly. When there are higher levels of serotonin, moods are better and, therefore, cognitive functioning is improved. The problem is found when serotonin levels are too low. In children, this can manifest in behaviors such as poor impulse control and inattention.
Now that we understand the neuroscience surrounding serotonin, how can we, as parents, teachers, coaches, and anyone who works with children, use this information? We must create a learning environment that is inviting and form bonds with the children by setting an enthusiastic and positive mood.
Our program does this by teaching with the brain in mind and utilizing game-based learning. Along with this, two of the skills that are used in class are specifically designed to increase the students’ serotonin levels.
1) Choices: The use of “choices” as a teaching skill in class helps the students build satisfaction because they have a say in what they are doing and, therefore, their excitement to do things increases. For example, when working on forms in class, if the instructor tells the students to do their forms for 15 minutes, they probably aren’t going to be that excited. But, if the instructor tells the students they can choose from doing their forms with weights, slow motion, backwards, or progressively, then the student will be more excited about getting to make their decision regarding this. And, they will then be more satisfied with the overall experience.
2) Redirection: The use of “redirection” in class helps the students feel more accomplished and, therefore, happier. For example, if you have a student in class that doesn’t always sit the best during mat chats, the instructor can say “When I count to three, let’s see who can sit faster than Johnny.” This student will be prompted to sit correctly and then he will feel more accomplished by showing how quickly he can sit correctly.
By utilizing these techniques, the instructors are increasing the students’ serotonin, which helps them become more satisfied in their accomplishments and it reinforces their good behaviors.
OXYTOCIN: The Key To Positive Social Relationships in Children and Teens
Oxytocin has been dubbed the “love chemical.” It is the hormone that is released when we feel love and trust in relationships. For most people, they know oxytocin as a significant part of the parent-child bonding process. However, it is also very important in overall human relationships and is considered our “social glue.”
The release of oxytocin is not automatic but rather, a learned response. It is very important for children to develop an effective oxytocin response. We find that when children are abused or neglected, they often have underdeveloped oxytocin responses. This is because they have been locked in the fight or flight response and have not developed the oxytocin response to calm down. Therefore, bonding is very important to children in the early years of life.
This bonding, that significantly comes through the parent-child relationship, can also be nurtured through positive interactions with adults such as teachers, coaches, and anyone who works with them on a regular basis. Since oxytocin is an anti-stress chemical, children who feel love and trust with important adults in their lives are better able to cope with stress and are more open. These positive feelings also contribute to a more positive self-image and increased empathy. This creates an upward spiral of positive social relationships.
Now that we understand the neuroscience surrounding oxytocin, how can we, as parents, teachers, coaches, and anyone who works with children, use this information? We must create a learning environment that is safe and increases the child’s “social satisfaction.”
Our program does this by teaching with the brain in mind and utilizing game-based learning. Along with this, two of the teaching skills that are used in class are specifically designed to improve the students’ oxytocin response system by increasing their social skills and empathy.
1) Healthy Competition: The use of “healthy competition” as a teaching skill in class helps the students’ make connections with their peers and gives them a “tribe” type bond. For example, when running a drill, the instructor may run it as girls vs. boys or long hair vs. short hair groups. This helps the students develop social connections, so they work together and trust each other to do the best for the team.
2) Extrinsic Motivation: The use of “extrinsic motivation” in class helps the students become more self-disciplined. For example, to get students more motivated, the instructor can say “If you do your form five times without any mistakes, I’ll do 10 pushups.” This is exciting for the students because it helps them to see the instructor as more vulnerable by having to do pushups. They develop the self-discipline to get their form correct so they can get the reward of seeing the instructor do pushups, which is fun for them.
The important thing to keep in mind is that our brains can develop a healthier oxytocin response at any age. It won’t happen overnight and will take time and effort on the part of the adult but the benefits for the child will be incredible. Creating environments that foster trust will make this process easier. Remember, even the smallest friendly interactions, such as fist bumps and high fives, can release oxytocin.
Have you ever wondered why children and teens seem to be so addicted to their smart phones and other devices? Parents are frustrated with their children’s lack of attention and motivation but what do their devices have to do with this? The answer is found in science!
Often referred to as the “motivator molecule,” dopamine is a “feel good” chemical that is released in the brain which helps us focus and feel motivated. When dopamine levels are low, it can result in symptoms such as difficulty focusing, decreased motivation, trouble problem-solving, and social anxiety. Therefore, many ADHD medications target dopamine levels.
When children and teens have low dopamine levels, we often find that they spend more time on video games and smartphone apps, and some tend to be thrill seekers. These things give a boost of dopamine, which makes them feel good and then leads to them seeking out more of the same thing. This constant boost of dopamine keeps them coming back for more.
The reason is because dopamine is part of the reward pathway of the brain. When something is interesting or exciting, a surge of dopamine rushes to the brain. Much like the excitement we feel when we are preparing for a trip or waiting for dessert, the anticipation of receiving a reward tells the brain to release dopamine. This release tells our brain that this event is worth getting more of. And so, the cycle begins.
The great thing about dopamine is that it can help modify behavior in a positive way, when done correctly. Because of the pleasure that dopamine makes us feel, we are more motivated to learn and, therefore, we retain information better. This is because the dopamine creates new neurological pathways in the brain. When we find activities that are pleasurable, we learn more from them and keep doing them.
Now that we understand the neuroscience surrounding dopamine, how can we, as parents, teachers, coaches, and anyone who works with children, use this information? We must create a learning environment that is exciting and produces the “anticipation of accomplishment.”
Our program does this by teaching with the brain in mind and utilizing game-based learning. Along with this, two of the techniques that are used in class are specifically designed to increase the students’ dopamine levels.
1. Trickery: The use of “trickery” as a teaching skill in class helps the students focus, which ultimately leads to better listening skills. For example, when playing a game and the students are waiting for the instructor to say “go,” the instructor can trick the students by saying “goose” or “go cart” instead. This excites the students but also motivates them to listen better and, therefore, be more focused.
2. Intrinsic Motivation: The use of “intrinsic motivation” in class helps the students become more motivated, which leads to more confidence. For example, to get students more motivated from within, the instructor can say “You only have to do 5 pushups but if you want to be a Black Belt do 10 pushups, if you want to be a master do 5 pushups, but if you want to make me and your parents proud and show you are the best student, do 20 pushups.”
By utilizing these techniques, students get a rush of dopamine because they anticipate the events in class, stay focused, listen better, and are motivated to do their best. They feel good in class and they come back wanting more!