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Back to School With Nutrition Education and Coaching Tips

Updated: Aug 25, 2023


Going back to school or starting school can be a joyful time for some children and a more challenging and apprehensive time for others.


We have a blog on back to school support with homeopathy HERE, just in case you missed it. Homeopathic remedies can help in these tumultuous times. We want to share how you can support your child at this time with nutrition tips as well as some coaching tools.


You can support your child to have an easier transition into school, there are so many ways you can do this nutritionally AND emotionally with some simple tips and techniques that we deep dive into with our students at the New School.

Schools can be an overwhelming place for children

Remember some children do not yet have the language to say:

  • ‘I am feeling anxious, about going to school as I do not know anyone and they might not like me’ can look like a major melt down the evening before school

  • 'I am feeling scared about School as my teacher might be unkind’ may look like your child having tummy upsets and some loose stools a week before school

  • ‘When I ask the teacher if I can go to the toilet, they say wait until break time, but I get all anxious that I may ‘poo' myself and the children in the class may laugh at me and I can’t focus on my classwork, I start to feel nauseas, as I create this big story in my head’ may look like constipation of irritable bowel syndrome

  • ‘I don’t like the playground as it is too loud and I feel like my insides are going to burst’ may look like tics

Can you imagine if your child could explain their feelings, their bodily reactions, how much more you they would feel empowered?

Career in Nutritional science works out

There are many studies that show that emotions can drive changes in the body. Typical example is emotions creating goose bumps, diarrhoea when anxious, dry mouth, racing heart, nausea etc.

It is the thoughts, that lead to the emotions which lead to a response. The days leading up to starting school or even weeks before starting school your child could be having stomach pains, constipation, fevers, ‘playing up’, having tantrums, acting out of 'their' ordinary etc. These symptoms, these behaviours are an expression of their inner feelings. They are not behaving badly, they are not being a brat.


Science and feelings

A study by Nummenmaa et al., 2014, asked a group of people to colour a body chart as to where they experience specific emotions in their bodies. Nummenmaa found that there were very reliable patterns on how people universally experience emotions in their body. And these feelings can kind of be scary and confusing for people especially when they have been taught to suppress their feelings. Even adults struggle to connect with their feelings.


Did you know one of the most common visits to A&E is for chest pain that ends up being diagnosed as non-cardiac chest pain that's due to either stress or panic or emotions. If, as adults we understandably misinterpret sensations, can you imagine how children must be feeling, especially when they do not have the language as of yet?


Have a look at the image above, it is quite wonderful to see how ‘happiness’ lights up the whole body!


It is important to HEAR and validate your child’s emotions

Give them space, let them talk, draw, play out their FEELINGS. However, suppressing feelings, by saying:

  • ‘you will be ok, you are a big boy/girl’

  • ‘stop being so silly everyone goes to school’

  • ‘suck it up’

  • ‘If you don’t get in bed, I will not read to you’

  • 'other kids will tease you if you cry when I drop you off'

etc.


All the above and more can further add to their feelings of 'danger' or feelings of un-certainty. What can you do to support your child?

  • Validate your child’s feelings

  • Allow your child to express their feelings, expression is healing

  • Be curious, ask them where do they feel ‘the’ sadness? Where do they feel scared?

  • What does it feel like, is it prickly, is it hot, is it spiky?

  • Laugh with them (not at them) this helps regulate their nervous system

  • You can ask them to draw out how they feel, the colour, the shape, the sensation, this can take the ‘energy’ out of the overpowering feelings

  • They can 'move' them out, by walking, jumping, shaking, skipping, have a run around the block before story time etc. Be creative!

  • You could describe your own experience of going to school, how you felt and what helped you, remember you want to acknowledge and validate their feelings

  • Did you know putting your hands on your chest, lights up the same parts of the brain that hugging does? You can teach your child to do this when they feel these feelings in their body, be it in school or at home

  • Demonstrate self compassion to your child, they watch more than listen. What are they watching you do? Be kind to yourself so your child learns to be kind to themselves.You can say out loud, ‘oh that’s ok, I had a bad day, important thing is I am safe, I am great, I am loved. Let your child add their words, some children will say, I am superman, I am the best, I am strong etc. These all help the brain sense safety

  • If your child is rather anxious, you can sit with them and maybe play a relaxing piece of music, something that is calming and allows the nervous system to ‘decompress’

  • Teach them that feelings are our body’s way of talking to us, make friends with these feelings, these sensations, teach them not to be scared of feelings.


Social rejection and physical pain lit up the same areas of the brain!

Kross et al., 2011 carried out an experiment whereby using functional MRIs he looked at the brains of people that were recently ‘dumped’ because their 'ex' didn't like something about them (targeted rejection). These rejected partners were shown a picture of their ex partner and another experiment done on them as they were prodded with a hot probe.

And what Kross found was that physical pain (with that hot probe), and the emotional pain, simply viewing the picture of their ex partner activated an overlapping set of regions in the brain (the somatosensory cortex). In other words emotional pain can activate regions of the brain that actual physical pain activates.


Validate your child's feelings


Routine

  • Routines can help. Having dinner time finished at least an hour before bed time, and reading time should be a time of relaxation, not 'rush and bed', allow your child(ren) to start winding down straight after dinner time.

  • Plan the days of the week including meals, school lunches

  • Be prepared for the first school week tantrums, any adult would feel 'out of sorts' going back to work after 6 weeks off

  • Don’t 'over-schedulise' your child’s diary, drop the post school clubs if they do not want to go, let them 'chill out' at home, allow them to be bored. Sitting in a school chair for most of the day can be tough on children who need to move around and talk and swing from time to time

  • Avoid all screens at least an hour before bed time, if anything avoid all screens in the evenings as you want to aid your child’s body to self regulate and allow any cortisol still coarsing through their body from their day to come down


Food glorious food

  • When you grocery shop, shop on the outer aisles of the supermarket. This is where you find all the fresh food, as soon as you find yourself going into the inner aisles, think sugar, think poor concentration, think poor sleep, poor hunger cues, high cortisol, high adrenaline etc

  • Ensure your child has a healthy breakfast, we are not talking about granola with milk or even Weetabix. We are talking about blood sugar balanced meals, a protein, some carbohydrates and some fat, such as poached egg with grilled tomatoes and a sour dough toast. Rushed for time? Boil some eggs the night before, create your own bircher muesli with berries by soaking rolled oats overnight and adding yoghourt and berries the next morning. If your child is not one for breakfast, no problem, pack them some celery boats with humus in them, or carrot sticks with humus or a tub of natural plain yoghourt with some sugar free jam, some grapes with cheese. But avoid giving a carbohydrate on it's own to prevent any blood sugar spikes

  • Try to make the morning time flow, if there is shouting, rushing your child(ren) who maybe more slow paced, this just adds to their ‘stress’, their little body has to sit in a class room with at least 25 other children for 5 hours trying to concentrate, they do not even get to have a coffee break like mum and/or dad at work or home

  • Walk to school, cycle to school, sing to school, laugh to school. If you drive to school, park up somewhere further away from the school, so that you get to add in a 5 minute walk. Did you know walking with the legs and arms criss-crossing over, (right leg forward and left arm forward and then left leg, right arm) is great for brain development?

  • Avoid screens in the morning, these just hijack the early morning cortisol awakening response (part of a healthy diurnal circadian rhythm).

.

Back to school transition can be smooth

If you can aim to 'blood sugar' balance your child's meals, put into place a healthy routine, show self compassion, teach them to explore their thoughts and feelings, speak kindly to yourself (they are watching), get them to move their agile bodies preferably out doors in nature and share the above studies on emotions and the brain, you can help boost their mental, emotional and physical resilience.


Our children are young human beings, who are learning about the world as well as their feelings. They are not machines, some days or weeks may be trickier than others, but teach them life has 'ups and downs' and that this is ok, just like we have winter and summer.


At the New School we believe in community, fun with a rigorous curriculum. Our 2 year diploma course in Nutrition Medicine integrated with Life Coaching is unique, it's is much needed and it is relevant to these times. This diploma is one weekend a month for 2 years.


Learn about the Founder & Principal of the New School of Nutritional Medicine, Dr Khush Mark PhD HERE.






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