It’s back-to-school season again, and with it come a variety of issues that parents and kids face. Here are a few of the most common concerns that arise at the beginning of the school year:
1. PRESSURE TO SUCCEED: Kids nowadays often feel pressured to get top grades, earn numerous awards and trophies as well as participate (and excel) in a range of extracurricular activities. Constantly comparing themselves with peers may result in negative self-image, over-competitiveness and even burn-out.
WHAT TO DO: While an appropriate level of competition and extracurricular participation can be beneficial, be on the lookout for over-scheduling. Over-scheduled kids may feel tired or anxious/ depressed, complain of stomachaches or digestive issues (a common complaint found in Dr. Yik‘s practice- often linked to stress or skipped meals) or see a drop in their grades. If this happens, take a step back and ensure that your child is not on the verge of a burn-out. When enrolling your child in extracurricular activities, be mindful of your child’s age, interests and abilities. Remember to stay balanced and allow time for your child to relax and play. Let your child know that you are always available for them: listen to them, engage them in conversation, support them with love and positive reinforcement. Help them understand that there is much more to life than just winning and being number one.
Lastly, as parents, ask yourselves, why is your child doing this activity or participating in this event? Is it to foster self-discipline, sportsmanship, creativity, etc.? Or are you trying to “keep up with” or “out do” your neighbour? If your answer is the latter, you may be contributing to the excessive pressure your child feels. Too much stress over a period of time may cause the child to suddenly become unmotivated or even burn out, which then becomes another common problem seen in kids who’ve been pushed too much, too early.
2. NUTRITION: Whether or not their child is getting enough nutrients for optimal growth and development is a common parental concern when school begins. Some parents may find that their child’s appetite plummets around this time. Others are dismayed when they find their child’s lunch box or thermos still half full after school. Inadequate nutrition or excessive junk food can lead to decreased immunity (i.e. more sick days), lower school scores (e.g. iron deficiency is the most prevalent hematologic disorder in childhood and it’s linked to lower school scores. Click here to read more) and hormonal imbalances.
WHAT TO DO: Discuss with your child his/ her meal routine and for the older child try to accommodate to his/ her food preferences- within healthy and reasonable range. Explain to them the importance of eating healthy. Pack extra (healthy) snacks and prepare a healthy after-school meal for them to come home to. Avoid buying junk food and be a good role model for your kids. Dr. Yik helps children regain appetite and improve digestion through natural remedies and traditional Chinese medicine, resulting in weight gain, stronger immunity and better health. She is also trained in nutritional counselling and meal planning.
3. FITTING IN: When a new school year begins, many kids worry about meeting new friends and fitting in. If they don’t have a peer network they belong to, they may feel isolated and anxious. Bullying is also a concern for some kids (Click here to read more on bullying).
WHAT TO DO: Once again, an open line of communication is key. Always be available to talk with your child. For younger kids, setting up play dates with new classmates (or old ones) can help to build friendships and foster social skills. For older ones, show them that you care by listening to them and supporting them. Be calm and rational even if you’re worried that your child is unhappy. Of course, if there is an issue of safety, then more parental involvement would be needed.
4. SLEEP: Due to later sleep times during the summer, many kids find it difficult to get back on an earlier routine for school. Some may experience difficulty falling (and/ or staying) asleep while others may chronically lack sleep due to a busy schedule.
WHAT TO DO: The more consistent the sleep routine, the easier it will be for the child to fall asleep and wake up at the appropriate time. Set up an evening schedule- and stick to it. Avoid stimulating activity and bright lights during the evening hours (click here to read more). To wind down after a stressful day, try prayer, meditation and relaxation before bedtime. Avoid caffeinated food/ beverages such as coffee, tea, chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, coke/ cola, etc. which can keep you awake at night. If insomnia persists, you may try natural medicine that works gently and is non-addictive. A licensed naturopathic doctor would be able to prescribe appropriate natural remedies safely and effectively.
Addressing these concerns early on will ensure a great school year ahead! Click here for 3 simple back-to-school reminders for boosting immunity. Click here to read how to boost your child’s health, naturally.