Help your child succeed in school

Published 5:01 pm Tuesday, February 15, 2011

By JANEY PATTY / Guest Columnist

I recently attended a workshop in Montgomery on brain development.

What stood out to me most from this day-long workshop was how current brain research can be used to help our children be better students. I would like to share a couple of points that were emphasized:

When children are under stress they cannot learn effectively. Because of the effect of too much norepinephrine, otherwise known as the “fight or flight” hormone, brain neurons become agitated and will not transfer information properly.

Children in our nation are sleep deprived, and this negatively affects learning and behavior. Lack of sleep can cause a temporary loss of reasoning and memory skills and can even mimic ADHD symptoms.

Let’s talk about stress for just a moment. How busy is your child? Could he or she be involved in too many extracurricular activities, to the point of being “stressed out” by them? How about your child’s daily involvement with technology such as video/computer games and television? Are you “rushing and fussing” many mornings on the way to school? All of these activities add norepinephrine to your child’s system. If your child comes to school “loaded up” with norepinephrine, he or she will not learn everything he or she needs to learn at school that day.

Now, about sleep: children and adolescents need more sleep than you may realize, certainly more than most are getting in our busy society.

Children between the ages of 7-12 need 10-11 hours of sleep a night. Teens need between eight and nine hours.

If your children have computers, video games or TVs in their bedrooms, you may be unaware of how much sleep they are actually getting.

According to, in a survey reported in the Journal of School Health, approximately 30 percent of fifth graders reported that they stayed up later than their parents knew five to seven nights per week.

Another 32 percent admitted to doing so two to four times per week.

If you want the best for your children, as I am sure you do, please consider these points. Help them feel more relaxed, less rushed and make sure they get to bed on time ­— and actually go to sleep.

Janey Patty is a counselor at Valley Intermediate School.