How Important is Good Health For Your Child’s Successful Learning?

How Children Learn Best—part 6 of 10
July 28, 2015 Updated: July 28, 2015

This series of 10 articles on ‘How Children Learn Best’ is written by Canadian Citizen Pat Kozyra who has been teaching in the classroom for more than 50 years. In the series she will cover a range of topics likely to be of interest to both parents and teachers – topics include Children’s Learning Styles, Multiple Intelligences, the Importance of Music, the Importance of Play and other topics. During the series questions can be posed to Pat and she will choose one to answer each week.

Your child’s yearly check-ups are extremely important. First and foremost parents must strive to send a healthy child to school and make sure that the home environment is healthy as well.

Medical check-ups?
This is money well worth spending. These yearly appointments should include teeth, eyes, ears and general wellness and should be a matter of course. I suggest that parents do this in the summertime while children are on holidays, so that they do not miss valuable school time from lessons because of absenteeism.

In terms of ear checks and hearing tests, it is advisable to use a reputable audiologist with a sound-proof room who will also test for extraneous sounds as this can be crucial considering all of the school and classroom noise during the day. Parents need to get good advice about how to deal with ear wax in children, as some doctors do not advise parents to clean their child’s ears. A build-up and hardening of ear wax can affect the child’s hearing dramatically and thus affect learning to read when proper sounds cannot be heard.

Parents should be prepared to inform the teacher, in writing, of any medical situations that affect the child. The teacher should know if your child is on medicine or if there is a special treatment for a medical issue; eg ADHD, Diabetes, Asthma, Epilepsy, Allergies, Fears or Phobias.
Parents can routinely check their own child for common problems like lice, and pinworms or threadworms as they are sometimes called (the old flashlight trick in the night while they are sleeping is well explained for detecting worms in my book, Tips and Tidbits For Parents and Teachers).

Is your child getting enough sleep?
You, as parents, must know how many hours of sleep your child requires at each age level and this too is all laid out in my book. Sleep deprivation in Hong Kong is a major and chronic problem and is often written about in newspapers. A lack of sufficient sleep can really make a child ill and unable to learn at his or her best.

Are you monitoring your child’s intake of junk food, the sugar intake, the fat intake and the carbohydrate intake? Obesity is a pressing problem now so this is important. Parents have real responsibilities in terms of this monitoring and no one else can do it for them. The child needs that guidance and care. Children who do not like to eat, or eat very little or only when forced must be brought to the attention of the family doctor for advice and consultation. Parents can also ask advice about giving their child vitamins – what kind and how much.

Teachers, for years, have been saying that the day after Halloween brings uncontrollable kids to school with major highs from all that sugar in the candy, but to my surprise, I read an article recently that said, NOT TRUE! It’s just the excitement and lack of sleep that causes it. I don’t believe a word of it, but that is just my opinion.

Is your child exposed to dangerous things like cigarette smoke in the car or the home? We all know the dangers of second-hand smoke. Are there moth balls in your house? I think this is one of the most informative chapters in my book – THE DANGERS OF MOTHBALLS! When is the last time you saw moths eating away at your clothes? Even if that were so, there are so many natural ways to combat this like lemons with cloves stuck into them, without using these very dangerous little white balls.

Does your child get car sick or bus sick? This too can really affect the day at school. Some children may need medication for this and it is wise to insist your child not be reading while in a vehicle.

Some children have allergies to specific things like the orange food colouring in cheese, which is one example I experienced, where a child was really uncontrollable and disruptive in the classroom until this discovery was made after visits to professionals who conducted tests. This child’s life took a dramatic positive turn when his diet was changed.

Are you providing good lighting for doing homework with the proper chair, desk and school supplies? Is the homework free of interruptions and noise distractions with the computer, TV and other gadgets off? This is all part of a healthy environment for learning.

And now a cautionary note about sickness or illness. Children can LOVE to be sick! Be careful not to blow illness out of proportion. Try to ensure your child’s school attendance is excellent and punctual. Don’t encourage your child to stay home because of every little ache and pain.

Don’t be an enabler – it can manifest itself into chronic absenteeism and become a vicious cycle. Show how proud you are of your child for NOT missing school. Hopefully, your child’s teacher or school gives rewards or certificates for good attendance. On a personal note, I still have mine from elementary school and if I’m an indication, I seldom missed any school in my whole 50 years of teaching. My mother, who was also my grade one teacher, had no sympathy for little aches and pains and off to school we went.

However, it is important that parents NOT send their children to school with contagious diseases, conjunctivitis or head lice. Some schools may even insist on a doctor’s certificate to return to school, or in the case of head lice, proof of the special shampoo purchase.
Many Hong Kong children suffer from conditions due to the weather and/or pollution and must use puffers or inhalers as treatment.

Parents should monitor the humidity in their homes and make sure that air cons are routinely cleaned and serviced. Mould and mildew can also pose problems for good health. Another suggestion is to check what kind of pillows, blankets and comforters are best for your child and his or her needs.

School is such an important and major part of a child’s life, so parents must make sure that the health of their child does not interfere with the learning. Every parent wants their child to be a productive contributor to society someday and of course a healthy human being.

Pat Kozyra is the author of “Tips and Tidbits For Parents and Teachers – celebrating 50 years in the classroom and sharing what I have learned”. It is available at books, Barnes and, bumps to babes stores in Hong Kong, Swindon Books, Kelly and Walsh (Pacific Place) and Beachside Bookstore in Stanley. You are welcomed to ask advice on a teaching or parenting issue by writing to