Advice Column, Education, Parenting, Recently

Lagging concentration? Natural ways to boost children’s brains

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Many parents find their children lagging in focus and mental energy around the end of the second school term.  This may well be exacerbated in 2022, as the first full year after intense COVID disruptions unfolds.  It’s not just the South African winter blues, kids, worldwide, have felt the stresses and strains of the upheaval of the global pandemic which didn’t just upend going to school but is believed to have hampered children and teens’ normal development. Like us adults, our children are still adjusting to a ‘new normal’ that remains fraught with uncertainty and the myriad of anxieties that come with the convergence of tough economic times, serious geo-political clashes and the climate crisis.   

If you are one of those parents who have recently experienced concerning parent-teacher chats or your child hasn’t had great mid-year academic results, you may want to consider giving your child some extra well-being support.  Restlessness, poor concentration and focus at school may be caused by anxiety or depression, which have risen in those under 17 years of age so significantly over the last years that we are increasingly hearing warnings of the global ‘youth mental health crisis’.  In addition, diagnoses of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) are ever-increasing.

According to Michele Carelse, CEO of Feelgood Health, one of the country’s pioneering online health and wellness stores, whether or not your child has received a diagnosis of neurodiversity, there are natural steps parents can take to help their child improve concentration and focus.  She says, “More and more families are looking for safe and holistic solutions to help support their children’s mental wellbeing.  They want options that nourish the brain, calm emotions, improve concentration and help children focus naturally.  Medicinal herbs such as Gingko Bilboa, amongst others have proven capabilities in this regard.  However, it is important to remember that there are also lifestyle strategies that work hand-in-hand to strengthen your child’s resilience and help them perform optimally.”

Having started her career as a Clinical Psychologist helping families deal with issues such as ADHD and ADD, Michele recommends:

Embrace a healthy family diet – “You can’t underestimate the importance of healthy eating when it comes to children’s brain development and brain power.  Reducing sugar intake, avoiding food additives and focusing on fresh, wholefoods makes a real impact.  You want to make sure your child has a good intake of Omega-3 fatty acids from foods such as avocado, tuna, nuts and olive oil, as well as a variety of vegetables and fruit that provide a wide spectrum of vitamins and minerals.”

Get physically active – “Research has shown that outdoor exercise, whether that’s organised sports or rambling family walks and bike rides helps both children and adults to calm the mind, regulate emotions more effectively and release stress.  Plan out your weekdays as well as the weekends to make sure you have time for daily physical activity.  Getting out together as a family is also fun and it builds bonds, improving emotional well-being and enhancing resilience.”

Limit screen time – “With so much time spent online and so much entertainment easily available on-screen, our children need breaks every day from their devices.  Set screen limits for the whole family and stick to them.”

Implement sleep hygiene – “There’s a lot of research showing that children today are not getting enough quality sleep. Problems with concentration and focus, as well as feeling moody, anxious or depressed can be attributed to, or worsened by inadequate sleep.  Keep your children’s bedrooms free of devices and screens; find a calming bedtime routine that works for your family and make a good night’s rest for everyone a priority in your home.”

Find support in natural remedies – “Explore a holistic approach to your family’s health to help support improved concentration and focus, and a calmer outlook in children.  The advantage of natural remedies is that they are effective, free of nasty ingredients and non-addictive.  This was my driving force as a Clinical Psychologist that led me to formulating specific Feelgood Health products that have helped many thousands of families over the past decades.  Popular holistic solutions include our Focus & Calm natural remedy which includes herbs such as Gingko Bilboa, and BrightSpark, which is 100% homeopathic remedy for hyperactivity. For teenagers and adults, we also have a natural study aid called BrainShine, to promote concentration, mental focus, memory and reduce stress.”

What’s important to remember is that we are all living through tumultuous times.  A less than stellar performance at school or an increase in issues such restlessness and poor concentration can stem from a number of converging causes.  Taking charge of well-being and actively building resilience will help both the children and the adults in the family to cope better with the stresses and strains in the world that are out of our control.

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