While back-to-school can be a welcome change with the return to a schedule–for children with learning and behaviour challenges, it can also present challenges that parents and kids dread. Struggles waking up, getting organized, dressed and on the bus on time–nevermind the homework battles or receiving notes from the school can leave kids and parents feeling defeated before Thanksgiving even rolls around.
To help minimize the stresses of back-to-school there are several strategies that can be done to ease kids back into the transition and ensure their brain is nourished and functioning optimally. The right strategies can mean the difference between peace and calm or all out chaos. The secret is to nurture resilience in the early weeks of September stresses to set kids up for a more successful school year.
1) Feed the Brain – I’ve written plenty about how much nutrition impacts learning ability, behaviour and mood and my clients are always impressed by how much diet changes improves their child’s ability to sit still, focus and self-regulate. A breakfast high in protein and healthy fats with less focus on excess grains like toasts and cereals is the first place to start. Protein and fat helps to stabilize blood sugar. The stress hormone cortisol tends to be higher in the morning, especially in children with these struggles–all the more reason why they may benefit from this change.
Reducing or completely eliminating sugar has made a world of difference for countless children I have worked with as does cutting out processed foods that are laden with additives, and food colouring. Including protein and at least 1 tbsp. of healthy fats at every meal, increasing intake of nutrient rich veggies and decreasing excess carb consumption is where a brain-building diet starts.
2) Movement – Many parents tell me their child’s ADHD and other behaviours improves in the summer and on less medication. This comes as no surprise because these kids often have a lot more opportunity to be move, be creative and active. They are going to swimming lessons, baseball, soccer and are outdoors playing with friends and family. Summer is a great time for kids to learn and develop in a more natural and less artificial manner.
Returning to school can mean up to two hours of bus rides a day as well as countless hours sitting at a desk. There are some great ways to counteract this problem. Start the morning with movement. You’d be surprised how many kids are happy to wake up and do a dance video or kick boxing before school. Even if they resist at first, encouraging regular movement through incentives creates a routine that with time, results in less resistance. Movement doesn’t have to be in the form of organized sports—a simple walk at the end of the day, cross country skiing or jumping on the trampoline can create an outlet for excess energy and can help calm and re-focus the brain.
3) Routine – Research has shown that routine helps to organize and calm the brain of both adults and children. Daily routines and schedules ensures that the habits that you value and consider important for health and well-being are done consistently. A regular routine for morning schedules as well as bedtimes creates predictability and eliminates arguments about what is taking place and why. Make sure that free-play, movement as well as homework and dinner are all part of the daily routine.
A regular bedtime is crucial for brain health; kids who are well-rested are better able to focus and learn in class as well as regulate their emotions. Studies have shown that for every extra hour of sleep a child gets–their grades increase half a grade level. If sleep is an issue make sure story time is scheduled in to settle your child. Start setting the atmosphere by turning off the TV and other screens as well as dimming the lights. This can help to cue the brain to relax and fall asleep at the same time every evening. Creating a checklist on a whiteboard for the morning and evening can be a game changer so that everyone knows what has to be done.
Factor in time for habits like meal prep and packing lunches and most importantly–Mom–create a routine for your own self-care! Check out my article The Super Mom Myth to learn more about this important topic. Daily exercise, meditation, a nap, meal prep, a good night’s sleep, a hot bath or a night out with friends. Your health is your child’s health!
To learn more about how you can help your child have a successful school year in 2018, schedule a free 20-minute consult.