Keeping kids focussed
Aug 10, 2020
Day one of homeschooling started yesterday.. hands up how many of us feel like they failed bismally!? Go easy on yourself during this VERY dynamic time.. nobody is asking you to be a SuperHuman! This is a huge change for all of us, including those kids, and the one thing i want to stress is that the stronger your routine, the faster everyone will adapt!
I know, sounds so simple. The reality is you, can only do what you can. As a parent or carer you are probably not trained with teaching skills, but the one thing you can do quite naturally is make sure they are fed correctly to help them remain focused!
This is actually an opportunity to see just how your child is effected when they run out the door on an empty stomach - whilst you might be allowed to smash down some food on the way into the office, your child is usually banned from having food in the classroom, meaning it can be a number of hours before they actually eat anything!
I cannot state how important it is for your child's blood sugars to be in the right place, if you want any sort of chance of getting them to sit and focus properly. This actually goes for you and your coping abilities as well! If you're running on Cortisol and coffee, its only natural that your survival brain will kick in, and bring with it a short fuse and poorer adaptability.
It's important to understand the concept of Food is Fuel... and there are several basic rules i'd like you to factor into your routines, in order to get the best out of everyone.
- Eat a decent breakfast: This doesn't have to be a fully cooked meal. But making sure that your child eats before 'school starts' is a solid way of ensuring that brain is fueled and ready to go. Fruit, yoghurt, cereal, porridge, smoothies.. literally anything that is not just a white/sugary sugar-spike. If it helps, with a son who's growing at a silly rate, i actually always make sure i cook enough dinner for him to eat the leftovers for breakfast the next day. If you struggle to get anything into them first thing, chopped up fruit or a smoothie is a good option.
- Grazing platters: This one is particularly handy for a busy family with multiple fussy eaters. If you can find the time (either in the morning or the night before) to chop up a number of foods into bite-sized pieces, leave them all on a platter or in containers in the fridge ready to go. My suggestions are things like fresh fruit, raw vegetables, dip, crackers, cold meat or chicken or even nuts. Trust me when i say that even the fussiest eaters usually surrender to this idea- if you chop the pieces up small enough to grab whilst theyre studying, they also have a great sense of control over what they are eating. (Even though it was you who decided what was going onto that plate). If they have had enough, put the lid on and place it on the top shelf of the fridge at the front. This is what they can go to if they are hungry.
- Regular crazy breaks: Could be another word for exercise, but anything that gets the circulation flowing, especially back up to that brain! For younger children, a physical game that allows them to use BOTH sides of their body is a good idea. For example, keeping a balloon in the air between people. Or a ball. This cross-firing stimulates lots of movement, lots of neural activity and allows the central nervous system to let down a little, whilst also waking it back up. Making sure some fun is incorporated also allows children to reset emotionally.
- Hydration: Sounds basic, but you'd be surprised how many people (children and adults) walk around in a technically-dehydrated state all day. Why is this important? Because its the fluids of the body which carry our electrolyte minerals and allow for the nerves (brain) to fire. Encourage your child to drink regularly. Water is preferred, or something like a smoothie as a treat. High-sugar drinks can actually dehydrate your further, as the body and kidneys need to work harder to eliminate the excess sugar.
- Limit sugar: Why? Because what goes up, must come down. Simple as that. The greater the basic sugar load (the glycaemic index), the faster that sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, which then causes a greater rebound and crash. In order to slow this curve, i would suggest focusing on foods which contain greater levels of fat, protein and fibre. These foods will also contain higher levels of the nutrients your child requires for focus and function.
- Get them involved: If you're feeling brave, try and factor the kids into helping you set this routine up! I find that children who are involved in the food process are more likely to try new things- so if you cannot take them to shop for groceries right now, pull up a recipe website or show them some fresh vegetables online. Ask them what they would like to try?? Make it a task that they try one new thing per week, perhaps.. or for the older ones, try and involve them in the chopping or cooking process.
I know that some of these things will feel daunting. If youre anything like me, you like to run a tight program which involves as few people in the kitchen as possible! But take a moment to see this era as an opportunity to reset some old habits, both in yourself and your children. This might be the opportunity to actually see how they function if fed certain things, etc. Most of all, i want to outline that the younger you start children on good food routines, the easier it becomes as they get older.
Good luck today everyone, for day 2 of Homeschooling.. If anyone is interested in a Q & A facebook live where we can discuss food options and work out a plan, shoot me a message or leave some feedback... Claire @ NBL