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Back to School Essentials: How to Navigate Through the New Year

As the beginning of a new school year quickly approaches, most households have the usual stress and anxiety of stocking up on supplies and ensuring everyone and everything is in order. This year, however, most are faced with a lot of uncertainty as to what the school year will look like and what exactly it will bring. 2020 has definitely brought a whole new level of stress into the household. Many parents are still working from home, some are going back to work and some are without work altogether. Many are unsure about the health and safety of their children and are trying to find ways to keep themselves and the whole family strong and supported.

Although we can’t predict what things will look like, here are a few tips on how to make mental, physical and emotional health a top priority in the household.

1. Reflect on Emotions

It’s understandable that emotions have been up and down during the past few months for adults and kids alike. Be mindful that your children are very receptive to the environment around them. If fear and anxiety is the norm, it may not be unusual for a child to start showing some aspects of that as well, especially going into a new school setting. If they are feeling fearful or anxious, let them know that it’s ok to have those feelings in uncertain times.

It’s important to implement your values and beliefs to your children, but make sure they are the ones you want them to have too and feel comfortable discussing with them. Being transparent with kids and communicating with them in a way they can understand will allow them to process information in their own way and to feel more comfortable with what might be happening around them. Even if the answers are “I don’t know”, they will see you too are curious and navigating the uncertainty with them. It’s important to validate their feelings and help them work through them, or better yet work through them together.

If you’re finding that work, family, life in general, is becoming too stressful to navigate and affecting your kids around you, check in with your healthcare provider to see how they can help you find reassurance, rest, and ease in managing the mental and emotional side of parenting. Helping to build on a good diet, sleep, and mental support system can have profound effects that will not only help you feel more confident but could also help the whole family thrive.

2. Establish a routine

Humans, especially kids, do their best in a regular routine. This isn’t to say they need a strict schedule, not at all, but some form of rhythm does help the body and mind process information that much better. Likely routines have been shifted quite a bit this year, especially coming back from summer. As easily as you can shift out of routine though, with some time and patience, you can shift right back in. So, make a habit of having breakfast every morning before leaving the house, taking your supplements with the breakfast, washing your hands when you get home, cleaning up after dinner, or reading and bathing before bedtime. These patterns start to establish good habits in kids and help them feel comfortable in their day to day activities.

3. Develop a good supplement protocol

Sometimes what we eat and drink isn’t always enough to provide us with all the nutrients we need. Sometimes we need even more to help build up a larger defence in an even larger battle. Supplements are a great way to add to an already established diet what the body needs to feel supported. For kids going back to school, that often involves getting the best and most out of their immune system. Although everyone will be different in what they need, and it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider about what supplements would be best (especially for the specific age groups and specific doses), here are a few go to’s that many kids could benefit from:

  • Multivitamin: often in powder, liquid, or chewable forms for kids, this is a well-rounded supplement with all the essential vitamins and minerals needed to optimal health.
  • Probiotics: can also be found in powder or chewable forms for kids and help to nourish the gut microbiome. By providing good bacteria, they help defend against bad bacteria and even build up antibodies. Meaning they help support the immune system’s response to infections like the common cold and flu.
  • Fish oil: often in liquid form for kids, this oil contains a dose of omega 3’s which have EPA and DHA in them. Depending on the brand, dose, and specific need, some fish oils come in higher EPA or higher DHA content. EPA is beneficial for skin health, battling inflammation and stabilizing mood, and DHA can help with brain development and mental illness.
  • Vitamin D: we’ve all heard of the sunshine vitamin. Here it is in full effect. Vitamin D is not only important in growth and development for its role in working with calcium for bone health, but it also helps support the nervous system and boost immunity.

There are lots of other great recommendations your ND can make like a herbal formula of astragalus, mushrooms, echinacea, elderberry, and more depending on the child’s age and disposition. Special formulas can even be made for specific acute infection to take at the onset of symptoms, and other formulas can be made to take daily for preventative health.

4. Don’t forget about the basics.

One of the things I often discuss with my patients is making sure they have their pillars of health up and running before anything else gets thrown into the mix. This includes diet, digestion, stress and sleep. Even the best medicine will only go so far if these foundations aren’t where they need to be. So, check in to see if your child is getting a balanced diet, having regular bowel movements, sleeping well and feeling well overall. If any of these are off, it’s best to work with your provider and get them in order so that everything else can fall into place.

If you’re interested in how naturopathic medicine can help support you and your kids as they start the school year, book a consult with one of our NDs to learn more!

Wishing you a healthy and happy start,
Dr Natalia Ytsma, ND

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