It’s hard for young people to learn effectively while fasting – but learn they must. GCSE and A-level exams may be cancelled this year, but the workload for pupils in years 10 and 12 is the same as ever. Your child might be worried that studying while fasting will affect their performance, especially if they’ve missed study time due to illness or self-isolation.
Don’t panic – we have some handy tips to help your child adapt their routine and learn effectively during Ramadan.
1) Be prepared for withdrawal symptoms
Cutting down on stimulants like caffeine and sugar can cause your child to experience withdrawal symptoms – such as tiredness, irritability, and anxiety. These symptoms can last for over a week and may affect their ability to learn effectively. If your child hasn’t fasted before, they may not be prepared for these withdrawal symptoms. In the ideal world, they should begin cutting out sugary snacks and caffeinated drinks before the holy month starts. Realistically though, that may not happen. If your child does experience withdrawal symptoms in the early days of Ramadan, reassure them that the negative feelings will pass after a few days.
2) Keep them cool and conserve their energy levels
Spring is well and truly here, and it’s brought the sun with it! That’s great news for our vitamin D levels, but the warmer weather increases the risk of mild dehydration, leading to headaches and tiredness. So, make sure your child has a cool, shaded area to study in.
Extracurricular activities are just getting started again after the long lockdown break, so it’s only natural if your child wants to return to their busy schedule. However, excessive physical activity and busy social events, will sap their energy, especially after a long day at school. Talk to your child about staggering their extracurricular activities, and delaying their start till after Ramadan where possible. It might also be that some individual activities could be rescheduled to happen before sunrise or after sunset. Private lessons and training sessions, and physical training in the home are examples of activities that may offer greater flexibility.
3) Identify their peak energy times
Your child’s energy levels will be highest after they’ve had food and rest. So, it goes without saying that these are the times when they will learn effectively. They will have peaks and troughs of energy throughout the days, and it’s important to know when these are. So, help your child to keep a chart to identify the times of day when they feel most alert. This can help them plan their homework, so they learn more effectively during Ramadan.
Set a study plan that fits with your child’s routines. Even on schooldays, some children may be able to study a little after Iftar before going to sleep, and maybe do a little reading or planning after Suhoor before its time to leave for school.
On days where they don’t have school, they might find it easier to begin studying after Iftar and work into the late evening. They could also do some studying when they wake up, and again after Suhoor – they’ll have had food and sleep at this point, so it’s a good time to tackle work that needs more concentration. Getting study time in early also means that they can rest and relax later in the day when they start to feel tired.
4) Avoid temptations and distractions
Avoiding distractions is especially hard this year. The UK is just beginning to emerge from lockdown, cafes and social groups that have been shut for months are finally reopening. For young people, the urge to meet friends and visit favourite haunts and cafes will be stronger than ever. It’s going to be hard, but remind your child that meeting friends in crowded places and settings that serve food will just add to their stress levels. Encourage them to meet with friends in locations that have as few distractions as possible.
5) Encourage them to take regular breaks
One big mistake that many young students make is working too hard for too long, especially if they have the pressure of a deadline looming. Taking a break is important though. Research suggests that our brains perform most effectively when we work for 50 minutes, then take a break of around 17 minutes. So, encourage your child to split their studies into 50-minute sessions, taking a 15–20-minute break in between each session. This will help them to learn effectively even when they aren’t fasting. They could use the break time take a shower, read something different, or just rest and refocus.
6) Help them set a study plan
We talked above about identifying the times of day when your child has the most energy, we also looked at rescheduling extracurricular activities where possible. However, the school day has fixed hours, and your child will still have important homework and coursework to complete throughout the holy month.
Young people may become stressed if they feel like they’re falling behind, so help your child to get back in control. Sit down with them and review the deadlines for all their work. Then you can make a list of what needs to be done when, and work out a realistic homework timetable that fits around their deadlines and energy levels. Having a plan will help them work in an organised, efficient way and achieve their study goals even beyond Ramadan. So, it’s a good habit to get into now.
7) Encourage sensible eating
During Iftar and Suhoor, encourage your child to drink plenty of plain water and eat fluid-rich foods such as soups, fruit, and vegetables so they start the following day well-hydrated. Avoid serving caffeine and cooking with salt as these will only make children more dehydrated.
Choose nutritious foods that are easy to digest, and serve sensible portions. Over-eating is the most counter-productive thing you can do if you need to concentrate, because it brings on a state of extreme drowsiness (sometimes called a “food coma”) that will prevent them from learning effectively. In fact, studying while fasting is easier than studying when you are too full. So, exercise portion control, and have plenty of healthy snacks available if your child has a late-night homework session planned.
George Alexander Tuition offers private, 1-1 maths tuition for children aged 11-18. We are based in London, and pride ourselves on offering a flexible service that fits around the demanding schedules of our young students. To find out how we can help your child boost their skills and confidence in maths, contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us on 07494672719.