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School is starting soon and you’re probably feeling excited, and maybe a little sad that summer holidays are over. Some children (and not only the grade ones) feel nervous or a little scared on the first day of school because of all the new things: new teachers, new friends, and maybe even a new school. Don’t let it end in tears. You can ease your child back to school with these ten easy steps.
1. BEDTIME The night before school starts is no time for a drastic adjustment of household sleep schedules. Instead, ease children back into the school-year routine gradually. Re-introduce a school-year bedtime during the last two weeks of the holiday. Begin waking late sleepers earlier and earlier, closer to the hour they’ll need to rise when school begins. Children need more sleep than adults, especially during their earlier school years, and lack of sleep can affect learning ability. So be sure to get them off to bed at a reasonable time – between 7-30 and 8 p.m. is optimal. A regular schedule is important and will help to keep stress levels down at the beginning and end of the day. 2. MEALTIMES Don’t neglect mealtimes! Younger children in particular need to adapt to new meal routines before the school day demands it of them. Plan meals and snacks to accustom little ones to term-time rituals before the school year begins. 3. PLANNING Each school year floats on a sea of schedules – school functions and meetings, sport and music lessons. How do you survive when you’re drowning in newsletters and order forms? Nothing calms school-year chaos as much as planning and using a calendar that you and your child can update with colourful stickers and highlighters. You’ll need a family event calendar to track after-school activities, school programmes and sports matches. A paper calendar with large squares enables you to enter information easily, and efficiently colour-coding entries by family members helps keep busy lives organised! 4. CHECK BEFORE YOU SHOP Prepare before you shop. Take an afternoon and assess each child’s clothing needs. Work with your child, empty drawers and cupboards of outgrown or worn-out clothing, and donate the discards. Use this opportunity to mark the clothes too. Make a wardrobe needs list for each child. Check for possible hand-me-downs from older siblings as you make your list. Get your uniform and stationery requirement forms from the school before shopping. And shop early! With back-to-school sales beginning in January, tardy shoppers have a tough time locating needed supplies and this will cause unnecessary stress for the child – and for you. 5. TAKE AIM ON MORNING MADNESS What are school mornings like in your home? Crazed and chaotic, or calm and cheerful? Plan ahead to send your children out of the door in a happy mood. Each evening, think ahead to the following morning. Set the breakfast table as you clear the dinner dishes. Lay out the younger children’s clothing the night before and start the lunch boxes. Multi-child households may need a bathroom schedule so that everyone gets equal time in front of the mirror. 6. SNACK SORTING Make school lunches at a moment’s notice by creating a lunchbox tray in the fridge packed with ingredients such as bread, lettuce and cheese, to bypass the time-consuming gathering process. Store your nuts, seeds and dried fruit in a container in the cupboard to fill lunchboxes from. Try to include a variety of foods in your packed lunches, especially fruits and vegetables. 7. PACK SCHOOL BAGS THE NIGHT BEFORE Make sure children pack whatever they are going to need in their backpack the night before. This prevents the morning panic when they can’t find their homework or reply slip. 8. EAT A HEALTHY BREAKFAST It’s essential for children to start the day with a nutritious breakfast packed with vitamins, minerals and protein. There are many commercial cereals on the market that promise a lot but contain high levels of sugar, which can affect concentration. Whole-grain cereals make the best breakfast. Protein is essential for brain balance and acuity, as it is responsible for the production of neurotransmitters in the brain. Eggs make a wonderful breakfast – they are a complete protein that contains all the essential amino acids and will help maintain healthy blood sugar levels throughout the morning. Sometimes eating breakfast just feels like too much too early, and if this is a problem for your child, a smoothie is a great way to ensure protein intake in the morning. Blend water with a dollop of yoghurt, fruit such as berries or banana, extras such as lecithin granules, rice or whey protein, and even any supplements the child may be taking. They can get their green food in this way too by adding a grass powder such as barley or wheat grass. 9. SUPPLEMENTATION IS IMPORTANT The many benefits of omega-3 essential fatty acids are well documented, and we know that DHA, the main component of omega-3 fatty acids, is essential for balanced and optimal brain function and normal visual function. It’s a fact: the brain and retina contain more DHA than any other tissue in the human body. A number of studies have shown DHA to enhance learning and memory. It is therefore recommended to children and teenagers who have learning difficulties and to students under high pressure. It is, however, essential that the DHA comes from purified fish oil, as fish oil may be contaminated by heavy metals such as mercury. Some manufacturers of fish oil guarantee its quality by using a special nitrogen-flushing system, but others do not, and such products could be harmful to your child. So be sure to check your fish oil source. Adequate nutrition is essential in supporting the brain. Valuable vitamins and minerals include zinc, magnesium, iron, B vitamins, folate and vitamin C. Discuss dosages with your naturopathic physician. Iron is especially important, and is a key nutrient for the brain. It is often found to be deficient in children with ADD and ADHD (attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and is essential for energy production. Low iron or ferritin stores predispose to lethargy, irritability, apathy, fatigue and inability to concentrate. Along with a balanced diet, it is crucial that the above nutrients are included in a back-to-school health programme. Many companies now manufacture multivitamin and mineral supplements specially tailored to children’s needs, which can be taken in a child-friendly form with all the necessary nutrients in one convenient capsule. Laboratory studies on rats indicate that extracts of the Auyrvedic herb Bacopa monniera improve memory capacity and motor learning ability. Recent studies suggest bacopa may improve intellectual activity. 10. STRESS LESS It’s important to address any stress or anxiety that a child is experiencing at the beginning of a new school year, as these have been shown to interfere with confidence, attention and behaviour. Untreated anxiety can lead to inattention and behavioural issues, contributing to ADHD. Herbs such as passion flower, German chamomile and valerian have a calming effect while improving focus and behaviour. In combination these herbs can help children get to sleep more easily as well as deal with daytime anxiety. Another option is a flower essence remedy such as Rescue Remedy. Combination homeopathic remedies such as Relicalm from Cipla, Quietude from Boiron and Rescue from OTC Pharma are available at your health shop.
She is editor, publisher and founding member of Natural Medicine and Dreamcatcher Publications. She has a passion for knowledge and strives to share the work of the brightest minds and biggest hearts in healing. For Daleen natural medicine is more than taking a pill for an ill philosophy. Natural medicine also encompasses nutrition, lifestyle, spiritual health, exercise, and emotional and mental well-being. She is the mother of three children.
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