For many American kids, September means back to school. The stress in years past was less intense. Will I make new friends, and what will my new teacher be like, were some of the common worries. These were balanced by the excitement of picking out a new lunchbox or backpack, shopping for school clothes, and maybe getting a fresh box of crayons.
Today, however, concerns over Covid and now monkeypox, school shootings, and catching up with studies after the pushback from the Pandemic weigh on students and parents. Acknowledging that these are real concerns, rather than trying to override or disregard them, is a healthy first step. Talking with a counselor, therapist, or others who offer healthy coping strategies may be necessary. We know that laughter is contagious, well so is stress. Trying to collectively cope and ease the stress in yourself, as well as your children, makes a healthier and more joyful environment for all.
A few simple tips that you may want to utilize this fall include:
1. Start shifting into a sleep routine now that meets the age-specific needs of your child.1,2
Summer is filled with care-free days and nights that last a lot longer than during the school year. To facilitate this transition, you may want to consider waking your child earlier and going for a walk outdoors within an hour of waking. Exposing our eyes to sunlight, without sunglasses first thing in the morning, ideally for at least twenty minutes helps regulate the sleep hormones in our body. Eliminate screen time at least one hour before bed and substite with a calming practice such as taking a warm bath, reading or listening to a story, or coloring can help prepare us for a nice, deep sleep once we hit the pillow.
2. Reduce sugar intake. Sure, ice cream and snow cones are fun summer treats, but why not take advantage of the new season and substitute with apples spread with peanut butter or sprinkled with cinnamon? Consider shopping together to pick out healthy fruits and vegetables at the grocery or local farmer’s market on weekends. Prepare healthy home cooked meals for the week on Sunday if possible. Even if these only get you to Wednesday or Thursday, that is a few days of extra mind space for you, and healthy food for your whole family.
3. Create time to decompress. Partnering with Mother Nature is ideal for this. Numerous studies show that spending time outdoors engaging with nature reduces stress and improves our wellbeing. While it is ideal to spend time in green spaces such as parks, gardens or forests, or blue spaces such as lakes, pools, or beaches, but access to these may be limited for some. Going outside and gazing at the sky, noticing the cloud formations or the shades of blue in the sky is something we all can access.
4. Move. Most children will engage in some type of recreation at school. Encouraging playing or exercising after school, however, can help burn off the angst build up from the day as well as add to their overall holistic health. After school sports teams, family walks, playing with neighbors, or even doing “old-fashioned” hula hooping or jumping rope, can get their hearts pumping and stress reducing.
5. Set boundaries now. We hit the reset in our computer when we need it to clear things up and work smoothly, so why not do that for ourselves as the seasons in our lives change. The free-flowing days of summer may not lend themselves to focusing on the many things that come with a new school year. Maybe set limits on friends coming over, or texting. Is it time your child took on more responsibility such as doing their own laundry, emptying the dishwasher or taking out the trash? Parents will be supervising homework, getting kids to school, and all the other new tasks that come with the school year so they need to establish a household rhythm that works for all to achieve the goals they set.
However you decide to shift into the upcoming school year, we wish you the best. Our website is full of helpful tips and content to better connect with our natural world to enhance your holistic health. Feel free to tap into it as you need to. We invite you to subscribe to our seasonal email newsletter on the homepage and socialize with us on social @TheNatureNurse . Have some tips of your own to share? Please share them in the comments below.