This really is a ‘back to school’ with a difference. As well as the usual nerves, there may be some apprehension and excitement as they see people for the first time. It’s going to be a different environment with all kinds of new measures in place, so it makes sense to help our children plan and prepare for what’s going to be quite a strange return.
Maintaining a healthy immune system
And so they’re off in their way to school, finally mixing with other children where. Even in ‘normal’ conditions, children are exposed to more bugs and infections when they return to school, without the risk that COVID has presented to the world. So in any case, it’s important that children are nutritionally well nourished to help maintain a healthy immune system.
One key nutrient that’s emerging as an immune health superstar is vitamin D, and Public Health England has advised that we all supplement with 10micrograms daily, including all children over the age of 1.
A general multinutrient will help to safeguard nutrient levels in the diet. There are all kinds of vitamin and mineral supplements for children, in all kinds of forms; liquids, gummies, tablets, chewables and powders. Choose one that your child likes. It might take some time, they might not like lemon, but might like lime. They might not like lime chewables, but might like orange gummies. Health practitioners might recommend supplementing with iron, so you could consider a supplement with iron added, or possibly a separate iron formulation. Do ask in store about which formulations are available.
Getting the right flavour for your child is also important for omega 3 products, which – most often being based on fish oils – can have a characteristic smell. It’s not easy masking fish, but there are now some fantastic formulations which do a pretty good job.
Following fresh-food summer months, try to keep up good intakes of fresh fruits and vegetables as the autumn approaches (there are some studies to say that organic fruits and vegetables have higher nutrient yields, but make sure that they are eaten very fresh). If you can’t do this yourself because you’re busy, then ditch the guilt and buy smoothies and pre-bottled/cartooned juices (look out for those that you can include in lunch boxes too). Keeping antioxidant vitamin and mineral intakes high is so important during the colder seasons.
When they’re feeling apprehensive
After being in lockdown for months, your child might be raring to go to get back to school. But this isn’t the same for all. Some children experience anxiety about going back to school, and it’s worth considering consulting with a health practitioner about what might be suitable for them This could include use of essential oils such to uplift or energise, or the opposite – to help calm and relax. There are all kinds of ways that essential oils can be used, so do take time to read about this, or ask a member of staff in a health shop what oils they stock, and what aromatherapy accessories they have in store or are able to order, for example, diffusers or ceramic rings. They might even work with a local aromatherapist who can create bespoke blends especially for your child. If you want to try them yourself, there are many reputable health store brands that can help to inform you. Your health store can possibly get in touch with them to check safe levels for children (they may already have this information to hand), or at least give you contact details so that you can discover this for yourself.
If your child is a little anxious, you might need to adapt the way they eat a little. Some children might respond well to eating little and often, as the digestive system can be affected by stress. Have tasty, healthy snacks to hand. Do a nut and seed mix with fruits, choose dairy alternative yoghurts, give biscuits based on whole cereals grains, or vegetable crisps to increase their antioxidant phytonutrient intakes. Be careful with drinks too. Don’t’ be tempted to give in to the sugar fix of soft drinks, or undiluted fruit juices. There are all kinds of amazing cordials that they can try, and don’t rule out vegetable juices either. Not every parent likes cooking, but spending time preparing fun snacks for packed lunches (biscuits made with wholemeal flour, with chopped dried fruits) are a great way to keep healthy eating fun.
We all love them and are biochemically hard-wired to love fat and the sugar. The sense of pure relaxation and joy when we eat these foods, especially as a reward, is tangible. But they can also be used for comfort eating, and this can set up bad eating patterns that persist into later life. It’s better to nip this in the bud at an early age, and encourage a default food grab that’s wholesome and healthy. So, what’s out there?
Diligently look for lower sugar alternatives; whole pieces of fruit, cakes made with half sugar, diluted fruit juices. More than ever, nutritionists are recommending that high sugar intakes are avoided, and this includes excess levels of natural fruits too. So be diligent about this, and try to steer clear from your child developing a ‘sweet tooth’. It’s OK to use dried fruits and compressed fruit sticks or drops with a meal, or with a drink of water. These are still better than pure sugar snacks, because the fruits will contribute some fibre, vitamins and minerals. Just use them wisely.
Instead, consider wholesome alternatives, such as nut, seed and wholefood products, but get the children earlier, and cereals bars or wholefood savoury snacks (such as trail mixes or wholegrain crisps) could be viewed as a treat, with the added bonus that they’re rich in nutrients than conventional snacks.
Don’t forget all of the tasty savoury snacks that you can find in store; organic crisps, rice crackers, oat biscuits or pretzels.
For treats, try organic liquorice shapes, organic lollipops or why not try flavoured jelly shapes, carob-based confectionary or delicious fair trade and organic chocolate or animal-shaped cookies.
Those pesky lice
Natural remedies for head lice can be really useful for when your kids return to school, and many are based on wonderful essential oils such as tea tree and rosemary oil. These can be used long-term to help manage any ride-on hair bugs, and they can be combed out with a lot of time and patience. Thankfully, natural head lice treatments are easy to use and come with simple instructions. They’re not unavoidable, but they can