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Lack Of Focus, Slow To Respond: What These Behavior Issues Mean
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  • Before the pandemic, children get a fair amount of physical activity, mostly in school, thanks to sports and games. It is also a great way to teach them leadership and teamwork.

    With the COVID-19 pandemic, children couldn't go outdoors. So longer (or unlimited) screen time has been unavoidable. Online has been where kids take their classes, chat with their friends, watch shows and play games.

    Signs your kids need physical activity 

    Being online, however, meant a more sedentary lifestyle. Many housebound kids don't have the luxury of space for physical activity. Play equipment would typically be found in schools.

    What’s lost here is physical activity and opportunities to develop friendships and skills to manage emotions like frustration, boredom, anger, etc.

    Lack of physical activity can cause undesirable behaviors, which may be evident in their online classes. Teachers and parents need to watch out for these signs:

    • sluggishness
    • poor attendance or non-participation in online classes
    • inattentiveness
    • poor overall performance

    How to increase physical activity at home

    Dr. Clarissa Mariano-Ligon, a family life and child development specialist, discussed three ways to increase physical activity among children when they are indoors: daily tasks, programmed physical activity, and high impact play.

    Encourage chores

    Dr. Mariano-Ligon talked about allowing children to do chores as a daily task. Often times, parents would instead do the chores themselves because of impatience.

    Parents will fix the bed themselves because they think their children can’t do it properly. They tell the kids to leave the plates on the table because they fear the glasses and dishes won’t be washed thoroughly. Moms and dads won't let the kids sweep the floor because they will just scatter the dirt even more.

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    Though chores are physical in nature, it also gives children an experience of relational skills, such as negotiation and cooperation. It teaches them to understand competence and responsibility and provide them with a sense of accomplishment — they learn they can do things by themselves! Plus, it reduces stress when families work together.

    Schedule exercise

    Studies have shown that exercise promotes the secretion of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, which helps reduce depression, anxiety, and even psychotic symptoms.

    We all know the benefits of regular exercise. It improves the mood, controls weight, combats disease, and boosts sleep

    According to the Mayo Clinic, the recommended hours of exercise is 2.5 hours a week or about 20 minutes a day of moderate physical activity.

    Grown-ups need physical activity as well, so something as simple as dancing will not only condition your body to be fit but will also increase quality time spent together.

    Providing quality sleep and nutrition

    Sleep is important to a child's physical well-being. They need to be given opportunities to use up their energy during the day and to slow down before bedtime. These can make it easier for them to fall asleep and to stay asleep throughout the night.

    How much sleep do kids need? School-aged children need about 9-11 hours of sleep. (Read here for signs of sleep deprivation in school-aged kids.)

    Now more than ever, a child's bedroom environment has to be peaceful, quiet, and comfortable. That means no distractions in the room, such as electronic devices or television. Instill a regular bed routine, which can aid in sleeping better.

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    With parents being busy with work from home demands, sometimes monitoring meals becomes a challenge. It will help if children are given some responsibility in preparing their own healthy snacks.

    Dr. Mariano-Ligon said eating is not only about physical nourishment, but it is also an opportunity to engage with the family in a meaningful way.

    Check for signs of stress in your child

    We cannot assume children do not feel the emotions that come with the uncertainty of the times. They can feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and perhaps, even emotionally tired.

    Dr. Mariano-Ligon says it is our job to find creative ways to reduce stress among our kids. Teach them how to pause and how to step back when feeling stressed.

    That said, we also need our breaks and many of us have become creative in finding time for it, whether it is between the kids' classes or even while doing our chores. They say dishwashing helps reduce stress! 

    Your break may be a stretch or a walk to the kitchen to get a glass of water. It can mean stepping for a few minutes to get some fresh air, or to get positive energy from petting the family dog or cat.

    Whatever it is, you and your family deserve these breaks.

    Dr. Gail Reyes Galang is chair of the Family Studies program of Miriam College where she also teaches under the Department of Psychology. She is currently the associate director of the Center for Peace Education. She also hosts a weekly program, “Our Peaceful Classroom” in Channel e. She is mom to four kids and four fur babies.

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