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Back to school

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Summer has ended and all children are now back to school. The return to routine may mean going to bed at an earlier time, finding and preparing a school bag as well as laying out one’s school uniform. Considering the last 18 months of the Covid-19 pandemic, perhaps students should also have a mask at the ready. 

Whether a child is starting school for the first time or is going back to another year of education, adjusting to a new routine is not always a smooth process. Symptoms of anxiety include difficulty sleeping and eating, irritability, angry outbursts, negative thoughts, and lack of confidence.

It is noteworthy that through school education, children not only develop essential academic knowledge of English, Maths, Science, and other subjects; they also develop many extensive skills that go beyond academia. It incorporates the development of various soft and social skills. 

One of the most primary and essential soft skills children develop is time management, learnt by arriving at school and lessons on time and completing a task set by the teacher within the set time frame. 

Through a combination of different lessons and activities carried out across subjects, children cultivate teamwork and communication skills. Activities that highlight different perspectives, whilst working as part of a team can involve disagreements and conflict. This is important for children as it helps them to see things from different perspectives and manage different viewpoints. In addition, teamwork promotes input from everyone to create an interactive learning atmosphere. Interactive learning also allows children to take on new roles, for instance, students who may be more shy can be encouraged to take on leadership roles, which allows growth and increased confidence. 

A study in 2014 showed that good communication is partly grown from a positive classroom environment and achievement sharing.

Education and learning have been severely impacted because of the Covid-19 pandemic; online learning and the lack of face-to-face contact has made it more challenging to understand educational material for students. 

Although, according to the latest government guidelines wearing a face mask is no longer a requirement, preventative measures can still be carried out to support safe learning environment. Teaching without a facemask allows for better interaction and communication between students and teachers. However, hygiene and safety are essential considerations in the current circumstances. YoungMinds is the UK’s leading charity for children and young people’s mental health and advises talking with children about ways they can stay safe at school. A preventative measure for children would be to wash hands before and after eating and reassure them that the school have established precautions to keep them safe. 

If your child does continue to use a mask, ensure it is comfortable and provide an extra one in case one gets wet or dirty during the day.

Furthermore, considering the vast changes that have happened throughout the pandemic, it is entirely normal for a child to have a mixture of emotions for the return to school. Discuss with your child any concerns, identify positive aspects, and recognise the things that you can look forward to. 

“Being prepared can really help manage anxiety. Make sure you have all uniforms, school bags ready in advance”, says Maryam Chowdhry who has worked as a parenting facilitator for 11 years.

 “Adjust your routine a few days before school starts so you are waking and sleeping at the right times. You could even do a test run and walk/drive to school the days before”.

“Keep communication open and allow them to share how they are feeling. Acknowledge any anxiety or worries they have and come up with some strategies to help address them in advance. For example, if your child is worried about not liking the lunches, go out and choose some packed lunch items together. Make sure you don’t pass on any of your own anxieties and only share your positive thoughts and feelings.”

In addition, support your children to understand any changes in their classroom set up, daily schedule and peer groups. In terms of children of younger age groups, providing visual aid can facilitate understanding. Therefore, requesting schools to send any images can help to make things feel more familiar. 

The Mental Health Foundation has suggested coping strategies to handle stress. This includes speaking with family or friends, as well as practising breathing techniques and carrying out regular exercise. 

Also, children should focus on the present and the matters within their control, such as washing hands regularly and wearing a mask. Encourage children to stay positive and support them not to stress and overthink about things they cannot control, such as what might happen in the pandemic several months later.

“Arrange some play sessions with other children from your child’s class so they can make friendships and recognise some familiar faces on their first day back” and “teachers can arrange for visits prior to the actual start date,” advises Mariam Chowdhry.

If a child has additional physical or special educational needs, the NHS provides guidance on the importance talking to them about the situation and plan activities that they enjoy and it could help them to feel better. If changes occur in guidelines, e.g. regarding facemasks, testing, and group sizes; a beneficial approach could include requesting your child’s education provider for detailed information with photos or videos on what to expect. These resources can be used to explain what has happened and why to your child 

Looking ahead, it is important to understand and communicate changes with your child and enjoy the year of education ahead!

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Every year there is a new diet, a new fad. Have you chosen your diet plan for this year? Should you pick a specific type of diet or is there a better way? This week we go In Focus with Toral Shah, Nutritional Scientist & Functional Medicine practitioner. She is the founder of theurbankitchen.co.uk @UrbanKitchen on Twitter. Come learn the best ways to manage your diet and how to make it sustainable and long lasting. We also tackle gut health, vitamins, and your gym membership. Its all here, so keep your eyes peeled!

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Education

New online source to combat Islamophobia in Ontario schools

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Ontario students and teachers now have access to a set of online resources aimed at combating Islamophobia in schools through Muslim Association of Canada that has launched a website. What is the importance of such a website?

Students like Emaan Khan (grade 11 student) expressed how he felt different, discriminated, often faced prejudice and picked on, which is why he felt better moving to a Muslim school where he was understood better. He also shared an experience in which there was a pizza party and his teacher wanted him to eat the pepperoni pizza.

Taima Alkhaldi (grade 11 student) expressed how wearing Hijab is a choice and does not limit or force upon Muslim girls. She expressed that when someone questions her about wearing Hijab she is happy to answer the questions to limit Islamophobia assumptions and re-shift the narrative. Students are now using this website as a platform to educate others and illustrate why such a website is needed in public schools in Canada and even around the world.

The Muslim Association of Canada, a national non-profit organization, launched a website recently on a three course (Islam For Educators, Dismantling Islamophobia In Schools and Anti-Islamophobia Resources), four workshops and six hours of educational videos to address anti-Muslim biases that teachers and students may have.

Memona Hossain a PhD student at the University of Toronto and a member of the Muslim Association of Canada states how “This is definitely necessary work. Our hope is that this type of work will inform long-term change, not just short term.” The non-profit organization has received a grant of $225,000 from the Ontario government in June to support the website as linked above.

In recent months hate motivated attacks have been occurring towards hijab-wearing Muslims in Alberta. As in September of 2020 a Muslim man was stabbed while volunteering at a Toronto Mosque and a family was brutally murdered and leaving a little boy injured in London Ontario.

Sharaf Sharafeldin the association’s Executive Director also stated “The outcome of this project far exceeds the original scope and offers very easy access, practical, and concise resources for educators, students, parents and anybody that is willing to address Islamophobia within the sphere of education.” The Ontario Education Minister Stephen

Lecce has expressed that many Muslim students continue to face discrimination in their school and communities. “That is why we are investing and partnering with community leaders — who are leading this effort— to counter racism and better support Ontario’s Muslim students and their families,” he said in a statement.

Paul Gareua, a Metis assistant professor at the faculty of native studies at University of Alberta, was also asked to review the platform and provide feedback on his experience teaching Indigenous perspectives. He expresses how the website dispel myths and misconceptions about Islam. “That’s always the uphill battle for us as Indigenous-studies folks or Indigenous people – how do you educate people on Indigenous perspectives so that we can sort of break these cycles of anti-Indigenous racism? The same can go for the Muslim communities in Canada,” he said.

The Peel District School Board also gave feedback on the platform. As they expressed it was implementing an anti-Islamophobia strategy that mandates anti-Islamophobia training for all staff. “PDSB unequivocally stands against all forms of discrimination and oppression, including Islamophobia,” said spokesperson Malon Edwards. “We have taken these actions to ensure equitable and inclusive learning environments and experiences for our students and staff.”

Paul Gareua states “Things like this, dismantling Islamophobia in school or Islam in education, I think those are good things to have available.” Websites like these are very innovative and a step in the right direction to support the minority communities of Canada. Through this program it spreads positivity and equity in a country where these values are predominant.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Education

Climate Change Education for Kids – In Focus

Climate change arguably is the biggest issue plaguing our planet over the past decade. Yet we are still at risk of leaving the planet in a worse condition to the next generation in comparison to when we were young. Now children of this generation are stepping up and taking things into their own hands. They are and can very well make an impact around the globe. What are they are doing to combat Climate Change? Can we do more? Join us as we bring this all important issue ‘In Focus’ with Keya Lamba from earthwarriorsglobal.com

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How to achieve a healthy ‘Play Diet’? – In Focus

Playing is an important part of being a child, but play has changed over the years. We have seen China put restrictions in place to limit the amount of time children spend playing games including on screens. Parents today struggle with their children who constantly seem to be on their devices and in front of screens day and night playing online. Outdoor play almost seems to be lost and forgotten about, but it is a key part of the ‘Play Diet’

Join us as we speak to Dr. Amanda Gummer, founder of the Good Play Guide (goodplayguide.com) who shares her research and insight to help bring ‘In Focus’ the importance of play, its role in the development for the next generation and how we achieve a good balance in our ‘play diet’

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Education

The science behind nightmares: can we choose how we dream?

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As I forced myself to wake up from a terrifying and all-too-real nightmare a couple of nights ago, I noticed that not only did I struggle to wake up and was unable to move, but I also woke up straight on my backside—a sleeping position I rarely find myself in. After slowly regaining consciousness and thanking God that it was just a nightmare, I remembered what someone once told me: “You should not sleep on your back, or you will get nightmares.” I had not really paid attention to the way I slept until that very moment. I dream every night but do not always remember my dreams—like most people. Turns out, they were onto something. 

The average person dreams up to five times a night—some can even have seven dreams during a REM (rapid eye movement) cycle. It is common for people to forget what they dreamed about moments after waking up but there is no doubt that certain dreams stay with us. We have all experienced frantically waking up from horrifying depictions  of our subconscious. Nightmares are generally understood to stem from anxiety or big life changes but what you might not know are the habits or sleeping positions that can make you more prone to having them. 

The consensus is that to achieve blissful dreams, it is important to get a good night’s rest and be comfortable but, evidently, your sleeping positions have a lot to do with your dreaming patterns. According to the Sleep Foundation, across a large population of sleepers, 54.1% of total time in bed was spent sleeping on their side, 37.5% sleeping on their back, and 7.3% sleeping on their stomach. But what does that mean for your dreams? Well, a well-known researcher Dr. Calvin Kai-Ching Yu, says that “different sleep positions may create pressure to different parts of the body, and body feelings may be the sources of dream elements.”

According to studies, right-side sleepers experience more positive dreams and fewer nightmares than left-side sleepers. Furthermore, it is said that left-side sleeping is beneficial if you have acid reflux. “Studies show acid reflux is worse when people lie on their right-side. Pregnant women are advised to sleep on their left-side, to help circulation and blood flow to the placenta. Left-side sleeping may also help digestion. There is an ongoing question about whether a left-side or right-side sleep position is healthier for our hearts. Research shows that right-side sleeping may lower nervous system activity, which reduces heart rate and blood pressure.”

Back sleepers are said to experience more nightmares and find it harder to remember their dreams: 

According to Dr. Pelayo, it comes down to breathing. ‘The work of breathing is harder when you are on your back,’ he said. ‘Your tongue slides backwards and your breathing is more labored.’ It is a small obstruction, but breathing is already tougher when you are dreaming; you rely completely on your diaphragm, Dr. Pelayo explained, because the neck and rib muscles that usually aid with inhalation and exhalation ‘shut down.’ These two reasons cause your body to shift from a deeper, dreaming sleep (known as REM) to a lighter sleep, in order to open up your throat a bit and increase air flow. In that moment of transition, Dr. Pelayo said, ‘you become aware of whatever the content of your dreams are,’ good or bad.”

Now you might be considering changing your sleep position around to have some type of control over your dreams, but it is important to remember that these are simply general effects of sleeping a certain way and that just because you sleep in one position that does not necessarily mean you are likely to dream or feel a certain way while sleeping. Although changing your sleep position may affect the sorts of dreams you see, doctors and sleep experts do not recommend doing so since interrupting your body’s pattern can interfere with a natural and healthier sleep.  That being said, if you feel as if you are not getting a proper night’s sleep or are experiencing adverse health effects, consider consulting your doctor to see if changing sleeping habits may be right for you. 

If you are a back sleeper or are simply prone to nightmares, do not fret. According to some recent developments, nightmares might actually be good for us. Dream expert Leslie Ellis says, “Most people think nightmares are just about fear, but they can really be any really negative emotion. For a lot of people, it’s a really bad dream or really bad emotions, and they wake you up and they’re very vivid and easy to recall.” Famous horror movie director Eli Roth, known for creating films that have likely been the causes of many of our nightmares, says “None of us like having nightmares, but they are actually very healthy to have, because you are acknowledging something you are afraid of…. I just take my nightmares a step further, and then I write it down and I film it and I project it onto everybody else!” 

Psychology professor Jon Abramowitz at the University of North Carolina says that our dreams should not be taken literally because what matters more is what is causing them in the first place. He suggests that “we can tame our worst fears (in nightmares or in real life) by confronting them” and that “effective treatment involves having the person recount the nightmares writing them out engaging with them in a healthy way, rather than trying to push them away.” By actively trying to bury emotions, we end up paying more attention to them.

So, the next time you have a nightmare, instead of changing your sleeping position, perhaps take a moment and listen to what your brain and body are trying to tell you. Maybe embracing your fears will help you take on your anxieties better and, therefore, allow you to have sweet dreams and live a happier, healthier version of you. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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