Back-to-School Tips for a Successful and Healthy School Year
Preparing for a successful back-to-school season involves more than checking off a shopping list of supplies and clothes — it involves preparing them physically and mentally, as well.
Check out these tips to make this coming school year a successful and healthy one!
1. Good Sleep Hygiene
As expected, it’s important that kids get back to their school-year sleep schedule at least a few days before school starts. This not only helps their internal clock adjust back to a decent bedtime, but it also allows your family to get back into a routine and reduce stress when the first day of school comes. In addition to getting enough hours of sleep, here are a few things that you can do to help your child have not only quantity, but also quality sleep:
- blackout curtains — according to the National Sleep Foundation, “exposure to light stimulates a nerve pathway from the eye to parts of the brain that control hormones, body temperature and other functions that play a role in making us feel sleepy or wide-awake.” In other words, blocking light may help your child have better sleep quality.
- cooler temperature — experts recommend keeping the room temperature around 65 degrees, for optimal sleep.
- white noise machine — having a constant, soothing sound helps block noises and have deeper, most restful sleep.
- weighted blanket — many kids and adults alike have found weighted blankets comforting, since they provide a “cocooning” feeling. It’s important to note that the weight of the blanket depends on the size of the child and must be distributed evenly throughout the blanket.
- diffused essential oils — Lavender is known for its soothing and calming properties. Chamomile oil is also a good option to help kids fall asleep. Before you use any essential oils for your kids, make sure you know the right amount and the safest way to use them. Kids’ skin is more sensitive and some oils may cause irritation, if used topically.
2. Eye Checkup
Even if your child has passed a vision screening at school, it’s a good idea to have an eye exam with a specialist to check for focus issues, eye tracking and eye-hand coordination. Eye exams for kids can also spot eye problems early on, such as “lazy eye,” in addition to more common conditions such as astigmatism, nearsightedness and farsightedness, which can be corrected with prescription glasses.
Kids with vision problems may also show ADHD-like symptoms at school (and at home) and, as a result, may be misdiagnosed. Here are some symptoms associated with vision problems that are similar to those found with ADHD:
- tests poorly, even though they know the material
- can’t sit still
- has a short attention span
- starts assignments strongly, but can’t finish it because of fatigue or anxiety
For more information about ADHD and vision problems, check out the “ADDitude: Inside the ADHD mind” website.
3. Dental Cleaning and Checkup
A dental check up may identify red flags before they become more serious. Dental problems, like cavities, can cause pain, trouble eating and school absences. A dental checkup also serves as a reminder for kids, and parents, of proper dental hygiene, and the importance of brushing and flossing.
Doing a deep dental cleaning helps avoid more than just dental problems. It has been found that our mouths have bacteria (good and bad) that travel through the rest of our bodies. If not addressed, bad bacteria could leak to your child’s bloodstream and could cause an altered immune response, inflammation, and other health issues later on.
4. Immune Support
Back-to-school season means increased germ exposure, weather changes and stress — combine all three together and it’s easy to see why it’s common for kids to get sick and get everyone home sick. By being proactive, you can help boost your child’s immune system and help avoid viruses. A healthy diet (think proper hydration, and whole foods, including plenty of fruits and veggies!), good quality sleep and exercise are great ways to boost your and your family’s immune system. Other ways to help your child avoid sick days include:
- Children’s multivitamins — choose vitamins and supplements that are high quality and come from a reputable source. Ideally, choose one that is free of preservatives, sugar, soy, dairy, and gluten, if possible. Find one that includes Vitamin D and Zinc, since they are known to help support the immune system. Note: We carry a variety of formulas for kids, contact us for more details.
- Balance their gut microbiome (see below)
- Check their emotional health — reduce stress and anxiety (see below)
- Essential oils — Dr. Lisa Profera, from ProjuvU in Ann Arbor, MI., recommends to her patients a blend of essential oils including wild orange peel, clove bud, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus leaf and rosemary leaf. This blend is used to boost the immune system and can be ingested, diffused, applied on the skin, or can even be used as a household cleaner. If you’re interested in learning/purchasing essential oils, it can be done through us, Dr. Lisa Profera, or your local essential oil distributor.
5. Gut Health
Gut health is important for everyone, but especially for kids going back to school. Over 70% of our immune system is in our gut, and having an imbalance may cause more than just stomach issues. Having a leaky gut, when the gut lining is compromised, allows substances to leak into the bloodstream and travel to other areas of the body, causing unwanted symptoms. Research also shows that having enough good bacteria in your gut can help produce “happy” and “calming” chemicals in our bodies, such as serotonin and GABA. You can help your child improve their gut health by:
- removing irritants (sugar, diary/lactose, gluten, processed foods)
- repair the gut lining with easy to digest, clean foods. Bone broth, vegetables, fish, healthy fats (nuts, for example) are good options.
- balance the good/bad bacteria in the gut through diet or supplements. In addition to supplements, prebiotics and probiotics can be found in yogurt, fermented foods, fruits and vegetables.
6. Emotional Health
Going back to school is stressful for everyone, but especially for kids that are prone to anxiety. Anxiety can lead to poor school performance, substance abuse and depression. This is why it’s important to pay attention and help your child work through their emotions.
If getting enough sleep and following a healthy diet doesn’t help, here are some additional ideas to help reduce the back-to-school jitters:
- Talking with your child about their concerns, and listening to what they have to say, without dismissing them as not being “real concerns” or just saying that “everything will be fine!”
- Some children benefit from role playing situations that scare them. For example, you could role play approaching other kids and making friends on the first day of school. Or, you could role play how to handle a bullying situation.
- Sharing stories of you feeling anxious in new situations may help, as well. This helps put things into perspective and let them realize that scary situations don’t last forever.
- Yoga and mindfulness techniques for kids
- Magnesium, Vitamin B complex and Omega 3 fatty acids supplements (always consult with your child’s pediatrician before starting a supplement)
- Diffused essential oils — If your child is anxious about not being able to keep up with school work, Dr. Profera recommends peppermint and wild orange essential oils to help support learning and recall, and rosemary and Douglas fir oil for more focus. You could diffuse these oils during study/homework time. Or, you could diffuse lavender or chamomile oil when feeling anxious, or after school to help them unwind.
We hope these tips help your family have a successful new school year. If you have any questions or would like to speak with someone about natural ways to help you and your family during back-to-school season, contact us!