What can parents do to best help their children thrive? The two best gifts parents can give their children are simple, easy and guaranteed to boost performance. This is great news for parents, as these changes are easy to implement, and the positive impacts they have on children are clear to see.
What are these two best gifts? A structured bedtime routine each night and eating breakfast every day.
1. A bedtime routine
Did you know that 45% of teenagers fail to get the recommended 8-10 hours? A lack of sleep may be caused by children staying up too late on a school night, thinking that they can catch up with sleep at the weekend.
However, this is not the case; research shows that one night of long sleep does not restore performance, and the positive effects may only last 6 hours.
What are the benefits of a bedtime routine?
Having a bedtime routine will help children get enough sleep. This will help improve their memory as the brain forms new connections and prioritises the most important information during sleep. Sleep deprivation can also have a negative effect on a child’s mood, as children who experience lower levels of sleep remember less positive information. This may explain why children are often more stressed or frustrated when they are tired – the negative experiences from the day are at the forefront of their mind.
What does a good bedtime routine involve?
A good bedtime routine should start hours before a child actually goes to bed. Exercise will help tire them out. Likewise, parents should ask their children to turn off their phone, or at the very least turn down the brightness. This is because phones emit a bright light which tricks the body into thinking it’s daytime, causing lower levels of the sleep hormone melatonin to be produced. As a consequence, sleep quality and duration are reduced.
As a final little extra help, parents should encourage their children to drink cherry juice, as cherries release melatonin (the sleep hormone) which helps prompt a sleepy state. Likewise, it is best to avoid caffeinated drinks such as tea and coffee, as these increase alertness.
Find more tips and resources for better sleep on our guide page.
2. A breakfast routine
Everyone knows the saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” – but over 60% of teenage boys and 70% of teenage girls regularly skip breakfast. This is a problem because breakfast can provide 20-25% of our daily nutritional requirements and reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. Not eating breakfast can also lower a child’s concentration levels, with recent research showing that the odds of an 11 year old student achieving an above average score in a test are twice as high if they eat breakfast, compared to those who do not.
What are the benefits of breakfast?
Research has shown that eating breakfast can improve attention and memory. In one particular study, it was found that students who skipped breakfast or only had an energy drink performed worse in attention and memory tasks compared to those who had eaten breakfast.
It can also lead to improvements in mental and physical health. Research has shown that people who have breakfast of cereal each day display lower levels of stress and depressive symptoms in comparison to those who do not have breakfast.
What should children eat for breakfast?
Research suggests that the ideal breakfast should include foods high in fibre such as wholegrain breads or cereals. It should also be used as an opportunity to encourage children to eat one of their five portions of fruit or vegetables. A glass of milk would be a good accompaniment, as milk is high in calcium, which is essential for strengthening children’s bones.
The research speaks for itself in terms of the importance of a bedtime routine and eating breakfast. If parents can encourage their children to turn off their phone and exercise in the lead up to bedtime, and to start their day with a meal high in fibre then they will be happier, healthier, and better equipped to reach their full potential.