An Integrative Medicine Guide for Parents and Children
As late summer nights make way for busy school mornings, staying healthy this back to school season can help you face any challenges that arrive and make sure your student has everything they need to thrive both in the classroom and at home.
So what can you do to prepare your children mentally, physically, and emotionally for a great back to school? Dig into our back-to-school healthy toolkit below and see where your family needs a little extra support!
Back to School: Stay Healthy + Happy
Amidst the changes, it’s easy for parents and children alike to get a little overwhelmed with back-to-school prep, but we like to focus on the main pillars of physical and emotional health to keep you and your kids feeling your best.
When your kids head back to the classroom it’s important to support their ability to stay focused and attentive so they can get the most out of their time with their teacher. Fueling properly and addressing any nutrient deficiencies–such as B vitamins or magnesium–are a great place to start.
As always, it’s crucial to boost and maintain a healthy immune system, as your kids will encounter a multitude of microbes that could pose a problem in your household.
Most importantly, you want the transition from summer into the classroom to go smoothly, and be able to maintain a routine that works best for parents, as well as little ones.
Related: Back to School, Maximize Your Child’s Potential
Avoid These Common B2S Pitfalls
Feel like back to school season always gets a little crazy for your family? This year, avoid these common missteps for an easier transition.
- Not beginning a sleep routine. It can take a week or longer to shift your child’s bedtime earlier to make sure he or she gets adequate sleep on early school mornings (1). Longer daylight hours, and time spent on devices at night still make getting to bed early a challenge.
- Have a backup plan if someone gets sick and needs to head to the doctor. As a parent, you’ve probably had to rely on a backup plan for your backup plan more than once, and navigating school-day logistics can often get tricky. Many parents wait until the last minute to set up childcare, discuss pick up and drop off, and what changes if someone gets sick or needs to get to the doctor during the school day.
- Skipping breakfast. School mornings can be crazy–we know–but skipping breakfast is one major pitfall for many kids (and their parents!). Without adequate fuel to “break the fast” your brain and body can have a really hard time learning and being able to retain information.
Read more: Master Your Daily B2S Schedule
Attentiveness and Staying Focused All Day Long
Want to help your child stay focused in the classroom? Numerous studies show that kids who eat breakfast consistently perform better in school than children who don’t eat breakfast. Learning requires a lot of brainpower, and your child’s energy-hungry brain needs plenty of calories to perform its best.
In addition, a systematic review shows that eating breakfast has positive effects on academic performance, cognitive function, quality of life, and wellbeing (2).
Fuel up with protein in the morning, as well as healthy fats, and whole grains. Check out these healthy breakfast ideas for more.
Prioritize minerals like magnesium, which plays a role in neurotransmitter production and promotes a healthy nervous system, as well as a methylated B vitamin.
If your child has ADHD, autism, or any other spectrum disorder which affects attention and learning, it’s important to support them with the proper foods and behaviors.
Brain Boost is our exclusive, step-by-step program that bridges the gap between chemistry and behavior to address the root causes of your child’s cognitive function. No matter where your child is starting from, Brain Boost supports excellence in all areas of life at home and in the classroom.
New this year…
Staying healthy during the school year has always been a top priority, but now it’s even more important as we learn all the ways your child’s immune system supports their ability to thrive.
Boosting immune function
Does your child seem to come home with a new sniffle or congested sinuses every week? This could be a sign he or she needs some extra immune support this year.
- Stay up-to-date with doctors’ visits. Your pediatrician can help catch problematic health issues before they interfere with your child’s wellbeing.
- Aim for 8-10 hours of sleep every night. A healthy immune system needs adequate sleep to function. If your child isn’t sleeping well, adjust your nighttime routine, or contact your child’s doctor to get to the root cause of sleep disturbances.
- Eat plenty of proteins, healthy fats, and colorful fruits & veggies. A busy school year means your child’s immune system is going to burn through lots of nutrients to stay well. Eating a healthy, nutrient-dense diet is the easiest way to keep your whole family healthy.
- Consider supplements like astragalus, vitamin D, and vitamin C. Lots of families incorporate extra immune support to make sure immune cells have the raw materials they need to identify and destroy harmful microbes. Vitamin D is crucial for the production and function of immune cells (3). Astragalus supports a balanced immune response, and vitamin C fuels important metabolic functions (4).
You’ll find a few of these ingredients in the Defender.
Stress, activity, illness, and other immune challenges increase the metabolic demand for dozens of micronutrients. Does your body have what it needs to fill this need? Test for nutrient deficiencies to find out.
Get Ahead of Anxious Feelings
Young people are struggling the most with their mental health. Since 2020, youth ages 11-17 have been more likely than any other age group to score for moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety and depression (5). While it’s normal to have first-day jitters, there are many ways to keep a finger on the pulse of your child’s anxious feelings and teach them how to handle this new transition.
- Practice your routine. There can be a lot of new changes when school starts, and practicing your daily routine can help everyone make a smooth transition. For older children, they could be responsible for setting aside time each day for homework so it’s done promptly. If bedtimes have become lax over the summer, consider starting that routine a week or two before school starts.
- Talk about what to expect. A lot of back-to-school nervousness comes from the fear of the unknown. Talk to younger children about meeting their teacher, what to expect on their first day, and even work on your goodbye routine. For older children, check-in with them about their goals for this year. Find out what they’re looking forward to, and what (if anything) makes them nervous. This can help prepare them mentally and set healthy goals.
- Discuss mental health where appropriate. School can feel overwhelming for many kids with academics, extracurriculars, friends, and a jam-packed schedule. Encourage your child to share their concerns, and you can help by validating their feelings and providing the support they need.
Read more: 10 M
- Plan quality time together. Connecting with your family is beneficial for everyone’s well-being. Make time for leisure activities you enjoy, like cooking together, playing a game, or just talking around the kitchen table. This gives your kids’ stress relief and an emotional boost.
7 Tips for a Great Back to School Season
1. Prep breakfasts and lunches. Your kids may be huge fans of a toaster pastry as they’re running out the door, but these typical “kid-friendly” breakfasts are sugar-laden and devoid of any real nutrition. Protein-rich foods like eggs are a great source of choline and vitamin D, which are necessary for proper neurotransmitter function in the brain (6).
In short, better nutrition = better brainpower.
2. Establish–and stick to–a bedtime routine. As with most things, the easiest way to accomplish a goal is to have a plan–and the same goes for getting the kids to bed. Most kids need about 8-10 hours of quality sleep. Support this process by turning off devices in the evening, encouraging reading a book before bed, and even a light bedtime snack can be beneficial.
3. Stay active after school. Children spend a lot of their day sitting at a desk at school. And while younger kids have recess, older children especially might be missing out on physical activity that increases blood flow to their brain, carrying nutrients and oxygen which can stabilize their mood and support better cognitive function.
Sports or other unstructured activity after school is a great way to burn off some extra energy, sleep better that night, and be more focused the next day.
4. Open communication with your pediatrician, your teacher, and other professionals. A great school year requires the support of those who can help your child achieve their best. Talk to your child’s teacher about their strengths and weaknesses, and be proactive about bringing up potential health concerns with your doctor.
Overdue for a follow-up visit? Scheduling a checkup is fast and easy>>>
5. Discuss mental health. If your children are old enough, don’t hesitate to discuss big feelings they may be having, and that if they feel something isn’t right–they should always come to you. Far from being taboo, today kids are getting more and more comfortable with treating their mental health the same way they would treat their physical health.
6. Schedule their annual checkup. The start of a new school year is a good time to make sure everyone is up-to-date with any follow-up visits, vaccinations, or other screenings. In childhood and young adulthood, there are many important changes and signs your pediatrician looks for to make sure everything is developing in a healthy way.
7. Build downtime into your routine. Raising a family can be a chaotic and very busy time, but just as important as eating well and staying up on doctor’s visits is making sure you and your kids have time to rest and recharge. Rest assured that downtime isn’t lazy, and it’s a necessary part of being able to sustain a busy–but happy!–life.
With Integrative Pediatrics, You’re In the Driver’s Seat
Back to school season is filled with new challenges, plenty of transitions, and lots of butterflies, but keeping your family healthy with integrative medicine is our first priority. We know that your child’s physical, emotional, and mental health all play a role in their ability to thrive this school year.
Working closely with your integrative pediatrician gives you the tools you need to take back control of your family’s health and wellbeing. We rely on foundational tools like proper nutrition, physical activity, and adequate sleep, while optimizing innovative diagnostics and prevention measures to make sure you and your family have the healthiest, happiest school year possible.