During times like these, you're under a lot of pressure to do all. the. things. This can stress you out and even increase the levels your kids may already be experiencing. If you're finding that your child can't focus on schoolwork, it's normal, mama.
Research shows that how you are feeling affects your ability to learn. Whether your kids are learning at the kitchen table or in a classroom, stress can physically change their brain and prevent learning from happening.
Positive feelings facilitate learning and contribute to academic achievement because when you are happy and relaxed, you are free to engage and learn. Paying attention is critical to the learning process by allowing the brain to make, store and retrieve memories. But negative emotions, like stress, can actually block learning from happening by increasing the amount of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the blood. This inhibits the ability to focus. And cortisol can interfere with the ability to generalize memories—to learn.
Thankfully, this is only temporary and can be remedied by some good old running around.
Dr. Gail Gross, author and parenting, relationships and human behavior expert, suggests that "Exercise is one of the best things children can do to combat stress. It increases neurons' creation, survival, and resistance to damage and stress."
And Monica R. Fleshner, Ph.D., an integrative physiologist at the University of Colorado, agrees, explaining, "Maintaining regular physical activity is one way to help promote both stress resistance and stress resilience."
You can't control everything in life, so some stress is unavoidable. But you can minimize it and the effects it has on your kids' brains.
To reduce stress at home, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests:
- Avoid putting adult-level stress, like financial concerns, on your kids
- Slow down the pace and build in free-time to have fun
- Help your kids find solutions and develop skills to face their own problems
- Keep lines of communication open
- Identify things your kids can do to help others and empower themselves, and
- Returning to routines as best you can
During times of extra mental load—especially now—exercise can be more important than schoolwork.
Bottom line: Go have fun and get some exercise. Your kids will benefit with the extra brain stimulation. And they will be better prepared to get back on track. And don't worry, mama, all the kids are in the same boat—no one is ahead, and no one is behind. Teachers know this, and science says your kids will be fine.