‘A healthy study environment for kids is now more important than ever’

Parents can help by removing distractions.

Students today can find it challenging to sit still and focus their mind on one particular school subject when the world around them is teaching them to multitask at an ever-increasing pace.

That’s why creating a healthy study environment for kids is now more important than ever, said Melinda Ruff, MD, a family physician with Centerville Family Medicine.

“Having the right study environment can help kids hone their focus,” said Dr. Ruff, who practices with Premier Physician Network. “They have so many outside distractions from technology, extra-curricular activities, social media and even everyday relationship stressors. They need a place and a plan that will help them to shut out the outside factors.”

Dr. Ruff said families can create good study environments at any time, but the beginning of a school year always provides the best opportunity to do it. Parents should work with their kids to first address three important questions:

The where: Discuss the best place to study and do homework. It should be a low-traffic space that is free of distractions, but where a child can be easily monitored.

“It may not be the child’s room,” Dr. Ruff said. “Their room is away from mom and dad and can be filled with things that serve as distractions such as technology or toys. When I grew up, our space was at the dining room table. It was a room with low-traffic but in plain sight of mom.”

The when: Determine the best time for the child to do their homework and establish it as a rule. Parents should carefully consider their child's individual personality and needs before determining a time, and be flexible and willing to change that if time proves it wasn't the best choice in the first place.

“Every child has different needs,” she said. “For some kids, there is comfort in knowing that they can come home and immediately do homework and get it done. Others need time to make the transition from the school day to homework. They may need an hour to unwind, stretch their muscles outside or get the energy from an after-school snack.”

The why: Dr. Ruff can't stress enough the importance of giving children a long-term view of homework. Parents should discuss with their kids why schoolwork is important. Look for opportunities to talk about their gifts and skills and how they may use them one day in the workforce and then tie that back to the importance of good grades today.

“Talk to your child about future aspirations and combine those goals into what their healthy study habits are going to look like,” she said. “If your child talks about going to a particular college, help set that into motion by showing them the necessary building blocks to get there.”

A healthy study environment and habits can have a direct correlation to a child’s health. Dr. Ruff encourages parents to work with their child on proper posture while working at a table or while on a computer. Proper posture helps a child fight fatigue and reduces their risk for neck, back and joint pain. Nutrition and sleep also play an integral role in successful study habits.

“Having the right amount of food energy can absolutely affect the ability to focus,” Dr. Ruff said. “You have to put fuel into the machine in order for it to work, but it has to be the right kind of fuel. Don’t let kids fill up on sugary foods that can end up sapping their energy. Instead, offer after-school snacks such as apples and peanut butter or carrots and dip. And last but not least make sure your child is getting the eight to 10 hours of sleep they need each night.”

For more information on study environments or to find a Premier Physician Network physician near you, go online to www.PremierPhysicianNet.com.

Premier Physician Network is one of the largest groups of pediatrics, family medicine, internal medicine, and urgent care practices in southwest Ohio. For more information, go online to www.premierphysiciannet.com.

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