This month, we talk to Becca Okot from The Ed Psych Practice, about the effects of stress on learning, and how parents can lead by example to help their children stay on top of stress.
Can you tell us a little bit about your role at The Ed Psych Practice?
My day-to-day role is very diverse, from business development to running the social skills group or handling client enquiries and intake. I like to say that my job is to ensure we connect with our clients, and I always try to prioritise their needs when expanding on what we offer.
What does the Ed Psych Practice do, and why was it founded?
Our founder was an educational psychologist who wanted to create a practice that could support families with children that have learning or behavioural needs. Over time, we have evolved into a multi-disciplinary practice to meet the needs of the young people that we see.
Psychotherapy was one of the first additions to the practice, given the importance of understanding factors such as stress, anxiety and emotional resilience when looking at a young person’s learning. Now we offer speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, paediatric consultations, ASD diagnosis, specialist teaching, social skills groups and so much more. Our aim is to be able to look at each child holistically, by gaining a complete picture of their needs and putting the appropriate support in place.
How does stress at home affect children’s learning outcomes?
When a child is stressed their capacity for higher function thinking – such as reasoning, logic, recall, and explicitly memory and function – goes offline until the system can re-regulate and the stress response is over. It is exactly these areas of the brain that we need to learn effectively.
Teaching a child to recognise when they have ‘flipped the lid’, and then how to reverse this, is the key to stress management and better learning outcomes.
Can you share some of the techniques you use to help children better manage stress?
Every consultant utilises different tools, and it is often age dependent. For example, for slightly older children we may use a lot of psychoeducation, teaching them about their brains and how stress impacts the body. From there, we may teach encoded mindfulness strategies to develop awareness of when there is stress, and how best to manage it. Techniques could include grounding, centering and breath work – amongst many other things!
Do you have any suggestions for things parents can do at home to help manage stress?
Children learn through modelling, so for younger children, we often first work with the parents to help them recognise their own stress responses and triggers, as well as teaching strategies to manage stress.
Sharing these with their child and communicating with them through the process is something we strongly urge parents to do. From there we suggest that both parents and children practice regular stress management exercises.
And finally – what’s the one thing you do to de-stress?
De-stressing always starts with eating well; good food is the foundation that my happiness is built upon. Along with that, I always try to find time for a little physical exercise, and then finally some downtime spent with friends, or on my own enjoying my hobbies.
For more suggestions on ways to handle stress at home, read this month’s top tips