Illness may play a large role in the life of a military child. It may happen that, just as a child gains immunity to ‘local germs,’ the family moves to a new place and the process of acquiring immunity to new ‘local germs’ begins again. If the family moves frequently the child can spend a good deal of time sick in bed after each move. Since children are ‘new’ people on the earth they will naturally contract viruses to which they have no immunity. But repeated exposure to new germs, especially indoor-northern-hemisphere germs, gets to be an old story.
Another health concern may be that of peer pressure. This pressure can range from group influence to participate in ill-advised behavior, or a desire on the part of a child in a ‘new school’ situation to impress schoolmates in a quest for popularity. Ill-advised behavior is common in teenagers, and may be attributable to adolescent brain development and sleep deprivation.
The adolescent brain does not reach maturity until the late teens or early twenties. Using magnetic resonance imaging, researchers have found that children’s brains needs to grow about 5% larger during the time of traditional school (K – 12). Not only does the brain continue to grow but the connection between the two halves, the corpus callosum, continues to develop connections along with the prefrontal cortex until the young person is in his 20s. 2
Brain growth isn’t the only factor affecting the behavior of young adults. Researchers have found something that mothers of nearly all teenagers know: kids stay up late and get up late. A NY Times article reported that even the Navy began a research program changing recruits’ sleep time from between 2000 and 0400 hours to between 2200 and 0600 hours, a change that allowed the recruits to sleep through their ’sleepiest’ time.3 Teenagers have a body clock shift turning them from toddler ‘larks’ into adolescent ‘owls.’ Mass school schedules do not often accommodate this shift especially if the school is so large that the students attend classes in shifts which may begin as early as 0630. By staying up late and needing to arise before their shifted sleep cycle completes, the teenagers may be sleep deprived. Developmentally incomplete brains in sleep-deprived bodies often appear in stories on the front page of the newspaper.
Bullying in school may be either a physical or mental health concern. ‘Bullying happens,’ and most often the stories of bullying are told from the point of view of the child being bullied. Parents of these children may give this as the reason they withdraw their child from school. There is also the possibility that a parent’s child may be the bully. If the child remains in the situation where he (or she) bullies other children and acquires a taste for power, it is no more wholesome than developing a sixth sense about where one’s tormentor is. Both situations are unhealthy.
School stress can also be a health issue. Some children worry themselves into illness over the testing of teachings they don’t understand. According to a review of Susan Ohanian’s 2002 book What Happened to Recess And Why Our Children Are Struggling in Kindergarten 4, some school principals “schedule extra janitors on test days just to clean up all the vomit.” Another problem might be a reaction to classroom attributes over which the child has no control. The sound of pencils on paper might be such an attribute. The child may even repress the feelings about the hated occurrence so thoroughly that no mention is ever made of it, and the parent sees only an angry child. If the child is a ‘good’ child, he (or she) may not misbehave at school where the stress is, but rather save the angry expression for a ‘safe’ place where it can be let go — at home. The teacher sees only the ‘good student,’ and neither child nor parent knows what is wrong, only that there is a problem.
2. “Teen Recklessness Linked to Still-Developing Brains,” Charleston Gazette, Mara Rose Williams Knight Ridder Newspapers, September 27, 2000 http://www.psycport.com/news/2000/09/26/CGZT/0000-4917-KEYWORD.Missing.html
3. “Sleep Is One Thing Missing in Busy Teenage Lives,” By Denise Grady (NYT) Health & Fitness November 5, 2002,
4. Susan Ohanian, What Happened to Recess And Why Our Children Are Struggling in Kindergarten
Copyright 2006, Valerie Bonham Moon
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