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Back to school tips for happy and healthy kids (and parents, too)

By Monica Gobba, owner and certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Live in Balance Consulting

While most of us are still enjoying the carefree days of summer, a little bit of planning now can reduce a lot of stress and anxiety on the first day of school.   These are a few ideas to make the switch from summer to school a smoother, happier transition for all.

Health:

First, schedule back-to-school physical exams.  The doctor’s appointment book gets filled fast, so don’t delay.  Completing this before school ensures your child or children are on track with vaccinations, developmentally on target (height and weight), and any issues can be addressed early.

If you have an athlete, his or her participation will not be interrupted.

Already done, then you can check that box and move to the next item on your list.

Nutrition:

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, studies show that children who eat well-balanced, nutritious breakfast and lunch function better. They do better in school and have better concentration and longer-lasting energy.

Some schools provide breakfast and lunch options for children. Review their meal plans and other food that is made available through vending machines. A well-balanced meal will contain a healthy source of fiber and carbohydrates (fresh fruits and veggies), and protein (nuts, meats, fish, lentils, beans, and some dairy).  Limit sugary and processed foods. This goes for snacks, too.

Here are a few menu ideas to get you started. Some of these can be prepped ahead and ready to go when you need them. Get the kids involved with part or all of this process. You will have positive results when they take ownership of their nutrition.

Breakfast: Scrambled Egg Cups, French Toast, Pancakes/Waffles, Oatmeal, Smoothies, Toast with your favorite nut-butter and Sliced Banana

Lunches: Hard Boiled Eggs (egg salad sandwiches or just peel-n-eat), Meatballs (by themselves or packed in a pita), Mixed Green Salad Bento, and of course fresh fruit & veggies make for easy finger foods.

Snacks: Hummus with veggies or sliced pita bread, English Muffin Pizza, Yogurt and Fresh Fruit, Celery with nut butter and raisins, Sliced Apples with Sprinkle of Cinnamon.

For more meal ideas, visit my website: www.liveinbalanceconsulting.com.

Mindset: Emotional and Social Needs

The first day of school is exciting.

For some, it can also stir up feelings of anxiety and sadness. The anticipation of a new teacher, new friends, or a new school can be overwhelming. If you sense your child is experiencing these feelings, talk about how the first day might go.

Roleplay good and not-so-good scenarios. It will help prepare them for the day and reduce any apprehensions. During my research for this article, I came across a list of books that address various emotions that children may experience and strategies to help caregivers help them cope.

A book is not the whole solution, but it does get the conversation started.  These were my favorites. Additional titles can be found at https://www.tes.com/news/15-books-support-childrens-mental-health.

Wishing you and your family a happy, healthy, and successful new school year.

Books to support mental health:

  1. The Bear Who Stared by Duncan Beedie

This humorous book about a socially awkward bear is great for showing children how they could try to make friends.

  • Beyond the Fence by Maria Gulemetova

Thomas thinks he knows what’s best for his friend Piggy and orders him around. Piggy becomes sad until he meets a wild pig, who helps to show him what true friendship means.

  • Black Dog by Levi Pinfold

The youngest and bravest member of the Hope family is the only person who tames the Black Dog, a metaphor for depression, which grows bigger and bigger each time you try to ignore it. A particularly useful book for children who live with parents with mental health problems.

  • Augustus and His Smile by Catherine Rayner

Augustus the tiger has lost his smile and is feeling sad. However, as he starts looking for it, he gradually discovers that joy can be found in all sorts of everyday situations.

  • Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg

This fun book helps perfectionists to see that mistakes and accidents can turn into things that are quite amazing.

  • On Sudden Hillby Linda Sarah and Benji Davies

Sometimes strong friendships can break down when a new person joins the group. Try using this book for children struggling with playground politics or those who don’t know how to share friendships.

  1. My Many Coloured Days by Dr. Seuss

This title explores the different moods and emotions a person can feel on any given day and helps children understand how common those moods are and how to identify them.

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