Back to School – Sleep Needed

Today was the first day of school for me and my new students.  It was a truly exciting and exhausting day.  Many of us did not sleep well last night, as our brains buzzed with so many random things to do, to remember, and to worry about.  And on top of a little sleep deprivation, we expend a lot of extra physical, emotional, and mental energy in these first days of school.  It’s a shock to the system, indeed.

More than ever we need to take care of ourselves by eating well, exercising, drinking lots of water, and setting a good sleep pattern.

The American Medical Association recommends that adolescents sleep approximately 9 hours a night. Yet, there is some research to suggest that biological sleep patterns change in adolescence. Melatonin, the chemical our brain secretes to help us sleep, is secreted in the teen brain from 11 pm to 8am. Thus, your teen may not FEEL sleepy earlier than 11. Nonetheless, there are some practical ways you can help your child get sleep.

•Avoid caffeine in the afternoon.

•Avoid computer games that can be arousing prior to bedtime.

•Avoid bright lights in the evening and sleeping with a TV or computer screen flickering in the bedroom.

• Allow your teen to sleep in 2 to 3 hours later than the usual on weekends. Allowing your teen to sleep more can disrupt his/her sleeping schedule.

•Make sure your teen has a healthy breakfast. Often, teens don’t take the time to eat in the morning – providing a high protein energy bar is a simple solution.

•Help your teen plan study times. Post a family calendar on the refrigerator with all family obligations, sports practices, church activities, etc. This allows your teen to plan blocks of time to complete homework. A teen’s ability to plan and organize is a later developing brain function; do not be afraid to provide structure, as needed.

•Homework is a learning tool that helps provide the student and teacher with information concerning skills/concepts that may or may not have been understood. If your student is struggling with an assignment, encourage your teen to make an appointment with his/her teacher.  Check homework for completion, not accuracy.

Video Games

I grew up with the Atari 2600 video game system.  It was the cultural phenomenon of 1978, right along with Star Wars (I was a nut for both).  To go from the old Pong game system to Space Invaders, Pac Man, Pitfall, and Asteroids seemed like a giant leap for all mankind.  I had such fun playing those games, saving up my money to buy another cartridge, and swapping stories and games with my friends.  Perhaps I wasted some hours of life along the way, especially in the long days of summer, but all in all, it was good clean fun.

Flash forward 33 summers later.  My son just turned 12, and like all boys, loves to play video games on his X-Box.  As a matter of fact, right now he is playing a video hockey game with a friend.  They just finished playing soccer and wiffle ball outside, so it’s a great way to cool down indoors on this steamy July afternoon.

This is what I love about video games.  It can be a very social activity for boys and girls to play in between more active, creative activities. Sometimes, my son and I will play a game when we are wiped out from the other activities of the day, and we just want to chill out and have some fun.  We tease each other and laugh a lot, as we play a game that keeps us acting and reacting to each others’ onscreen moves.  Mostly, he wins, which makes him feel great, but most importantly, we enjoy the free-spirited competition —  the laughs, the taunts, the punches — much more than the game itself.

As with every good thing, there can be too much of it.  Here’s one of many articles about the negative effects of too much gaming. Certainly, moderation is paramount with video games. Continue reading “Video Games”

Helicopter Parents

D.H. Lawrence, the literary giant, advised parents and teachers a century ago: “How to begin to educate a child. First rule: leave him alone. Second rule: leave him alone. Third rule: leave him alone. That is the whole beginning.”

At first glance this seems to be the worst parenting advice in the history of written words.  And to support that further, Lawrence had no children. However, there are situations in which this radical advice should be heeded: Helicopter parents. Paranoid teachers. Paralyzed administrators.

TIME magazine’s cover story (11-20-09) is a lengthy editorial, worth every bit of the 15 minutes it takes to read, especially if you are a hard-working, highly-committed parent or teacher under the age of fifty.  You may not be a hovering, smothering parent or teacher; however, you still might benefit from a good dose of reality about how we — sometimes in subtle ways — over-protect, over-nurture, over-schedule, and over-stimulate the kids in our care.

Sometimes, less IS more, when raising kids to be significant, successful adults.

Give it a read, and please feel free to leave a comment about it below (anonymous comments are welcome).  I’ll start it with my own comment.

The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting, by Nancy Gibbs, Friday, Nov. 20, 2009

Slowing Down for Kids’ Sake

On the way home from soccer practice last night, my son asked if he could join a track and field team.  This is right after an evening in which his mother spent 30 minutes shuttling him from his school to my workplace, where he worked very hard for 60 minutes on his homework, before we frantically sped home to quickly change clothes and scarf down some dinner, followed by a 30-minute battle with traffic to get to his 90 minute soccer practice, followed by a bleary-eyed 30-minute drive home.  The timing of his request was terrible, so he was hurt by my harsh response.

I had to explain to him that we just don’t have the time and energy to add that sort of commitment to our family life.  It was difficult for him to believe.  It’s a lot like when we say that we can’t afford to buy something, such as a massive plasma TV.  He doesn’t believe me because he knows that we can afford a house, cars, food, clothes, and all kinds of other expensive items.  So, I have to explain that we have to make choices because we can’t buy it all or do it all.  We have limited resources: time, money, and energy.  It’s hard for a kid to fully grasp the concept of over-commitment.

Continue reading “Slowing Down for Kids’ Sake”

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