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Summer Break: Time to Learn or Time to Play?

It's summertime! The sun is shining, the days are long, and the kids are out of school. For many children, this means time to relax and have fun. But for some kids, they may have difficulty winding down and may struggle to get back into the learning groove when classes start up again. This can lead to problems in school and affect their academic performance. This blog post is about how Whole Health Learning can help your child overcome these challenges and have a successful (and fun) summer break!

Why do kids struggle during the summer?

Today's children juggle a lot—homework, pressure from friends, extracurriculars, busy home life, expectations about performance, and so much more. This, combined with factors like poor nutrition, low quality sleep, gut dysfunction, and an altered neurochemistry increase summer learning loss and affect their ability to thrive.

Despite the U.S. leading the world in health spending, adolescents and young adults experience rates of mental health issues, depression, and anxiety like never before. The rate of chronic diseases and immune-related problems continue to skyrocket.

During the summer, a lot of these issues come to a head, manifesting later in the classroom with issues like:

Children who struggle in this area are at higher risk for physical and emotional health challenges throughout their lifetimes, and more likely to engage in health-risk behaviors (1).

Learn more about helping your student thrive with Brain Boost at CentreSpringMD.

Stress and its impact upon education

For many kids, stress doesn't go away with the ending of the school year, as a departure from the support of their teachers and other involved adults can dwindle.

In the years since the pandemic, children, teens, and young adults deal with greater levels of stress and uncertainty, and we see the effects of this on their academic learning as well as cognitive skills, language development, communication, and emotional regulation. 

Children need a sense of relaxed alertness for healthy learning, but many do not have an environment that's supportive of this kind of cognitive state (1).

Read: Signs & Symptoms of Anxiety in Children

Is Covid-19 an adverse childhood event?

The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns qualified for many as traumatic events known as "adverse childhood experiences" or ACEs. This type of toxic stress significantly affects the nervous system, hormone function, and immune health. It can even alter DNA and ultimately brain structure as well via gene expression (2).

This makes it harder for kids to focus on learning and self care, and may exacerbate the effects of developmental delays and learning difficulties.

Stress, and adverse childhood experiences are even harder on children with ADHD or autism spectrum disorders (3). Children may be dealing with a state of constant fight or flight, which presents challenges not only in learning, but also in reactivity to rejection, failure, negative reinforcement, and punishment.

Read: ADHD & Autism: The Role of Diet and Gut Health

Want to learn more?

Pairing health and education is key

It’s clear that truly effective learning takes place when we consider the overall wellbeing of every child—physically, socially, and emotionally. A successful approach at home and at school should focus on a program that supports a holistic scope, and the incorporation of ‘whole health learning’.

Whole health learning places importance on social emotional learning, or SEL, which is “the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions”.

Many schools have implemented parts of this process for students, drawing from various healthy practices such as:

  • Mindfulness programs
  • Nature education
  • Nutrition learning, including teaching kitchens and school gardens
  • Cognitive-based physical education

Whole health learning removes barriers to educational success and to supports the role of emotional and community wellness in long-term learning and health in children. This is a strategy that parents and other caregivers can capitalize on to improve self-care, learning, and educational outcomes—even during the summer months.

Related: 10 Mental Health Activities to Do With Your Children

Focus on holistic learning outside of the classroom

Though new educational policies may have a more holistic scope, actually building an effective and comprehensive whole-health learning program can be quite challenging, particularly when educators may be fully aware of the need but lack the time and support to implement and study different approaches.

This is where family and community involvement at home, and during the summer months is pivotal to every child’s success.

Read more: Back to School: Maximize Your Child’s Cognitive Power

Begin with Brain Boost this summer

Brain Boost blends holistic health and education. It’s designed to be a customizable and integrated wellness-based program which addresses the unique cognitive strengths and challenges of each child. This individualized approach helps students overcome challenges and improves long-term health (4).

Brain Boost serves as a bridge to sustainable, life-long emotional and physical wellbeing. Children develop competency in their own self-care and emotional regulation, which addresses the complex needs of today’s students. 

This method represents the application of core pediatric integrative health principles to the educational environment, including these four key values (4): 

  • Preventive: Focus on health promotion and creation, favoring proactive strategies to reactive solutions.
  • Context-centered: Children are nurtured within the context of healthy families, communities, and schools.
  • Personalized: Health is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Each child carries a unique potential based on a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors.
  • Participatory: Creating health should be a collaborative process, actively encouraging participation and putting children in control of their own health.

Simply, health and education are intertwined, and challenges in each demand creative new collaborations between both spheres. The separated solutions of yesterday no longer adequately serve our children’s wellbeing, and the coordination of health and learning is paramount.

Which is exactly why Brain Boost was created!

Lifestyle prescriptions – health and wellness activities for kids

Whole health learning at home during summer break focuses on a foundation of life-long behavioral habits that optimize health outcomes, and therefore learning and education.

Nutrition – Emphasis on whole foods, such as vegetables and fruits, quality proteins, and healthy fats. Minimal added sugar and sweet drinks. Browse nutritional supplements for kids in the shop.

Exercise and movement – Regular movement, whether during play or sport, is key for healthy cognitive development, and supports healthy executive function (i.e. goal-setting, decision-making) (5). 

Sleep – Students who are well-rested are more likely to perform better on cognitive tests, and have better emotional regulation (6). In the summer, help your child by keeping a regular bedtime routine, and sleeping at roughly the same time each night.

Mindfulness – Kids can improve focus, empathy, and emotional regulation with mindfulness practices, such as journaling, yoga, and deep breathing exercises (7).

Nature education – Learning about nature and in nature is great to help children improve their emotional, intellectual, and behavioral development. Outdoor learning also helps students foster creativity, problem-solving, independence, and confidence. (8).

Need help designing your whole-health plan this summer? Ask a CentreSpringMD patient care coordinator about Brain Boost.

Help your child thrive during summer break

Educators alone do not have the resources to solve the immense challenges involved in creating a comprehensive, integrative program for marrying health and education.

Given the scope and complexity of the health problems of today’s children and adolescents, it is likely that any program with the goal of improving students’ mental, physical, and emotional health requires the cooperation and support of families, community institutions, healthcare, and the political system.

Support your child’s transition from summer to next school year with integrative medicine

The good news is that there are interventions and programs available that can help turn this trend around. Brain Boost serves as one such bridge, providing holistic support for children’s emotional and physical wellbeing. This summer, get to know Brain Boost and help your child thrive in school and beyond. With a focus on nutritious food, mindfulness, family connection, and emotional wellbeing, Brain Boost provides the foundation students need to succeed. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your family!

Resources 

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7214304/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22201156/ 
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5523127/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6111895/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2748863/ 
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4180085 
  7. https://theconversation.com/how-kids-can-benefit-from-mindfulness-training-151654 
  8. https://www.air.org/resource/report/effects-outdoor-education-programs-children-california 

Tags

brain fog, cognitive function, integrative approach, mental health


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