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Ease your family’s way back to school!

How to prepare your family for a successful school year

I don’t know about you but I feel like summer was a VERY long time ago. We went from taking each day as it comes, lazing around, recharging and relaxing, to painfully early morning wake-ups, tempers lost, and endless hustle and bustle. The summer break – experience has taught me – is the calm before the storm.

I get it. Like me, I’m sure you don’t want to rush your offspring to school every morning, repeating each instruction a zillion times over till you yell yourself hoarse. Not only does this vicious circle set you up for a stressful day, it’s tough on kids who may already be feeling bucket-loads of stress, anxiety and fear as they join or return to school. Now, let’s not beat ourselves up about this challenging situation that so many of us find ourselves in. Guilt is debilitating. Instead, let’s come up with a plan of action that will empower our children to thrive this year, with our sanity intact.

 

New School Year, New Challenges

You can bet your bottom dollar that every single child will feel one, if not all, of the emotions outlined below as they enter a new school year.  As parents and caregivers, we need to be aware of and have the tools in place to address these emotional challenges head on:

Rollercoaster emotions include:

Change and Fear

It is well known that the brain does not like change. Change is dealing with the unknown, and the brain in unknown waters goes negative as a defense mechanism. It can perceive people, things, and events as a threat. So, when a child changes years, enters a new school, needs to make new friends, or relocates to a new country we are dealing with possible fear of the unknown. We need to provide certainty so our children feel at ease, go with the flow, and embrace change.

Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are the body’s natural response to change and fear of the unknown. As adults, we recognize when we feel stressed and we (well, not all of us but that’s a topic for another day) know how to verbally communicate our emotions and needs. But children haven’t yet developed the same skill set. It’s important as parents that we recognize and address symptoms such as tummy aches or changes in appetite, bed wetting, tantrums, sadness, poor sleep, lack of concentration, changes in energy level, headaches, to name a few.

Focus and Attention

After weeks of travel, fun, play, and late nights, it can be tough to refocus and be attuned to a new school year, new teachers, and new learning.

Child development experts say that, on average, young kids should be able to focus between 4 and 20 minutes, possibly more, depending on the task. So, the point is those young brains naturally ‘switch-off’ without much effort.

The digital age has ushered in even more distractions and more sources of stimulation to compete for children’s attention, which, in turn, may cause them to lose interest in a task more quickly and turn to something else, warns Megan McClelland, a professor of child development at Oregon State University, who has conducted research on attention spans in preschool children.

Lastly, mental or emotional issues, such as depression, anger, stress and anxiety, can make it difficult for children to focus. Young children need help learning how to express and cope with these feelings.

 

How to tackle these emotions

We often forget that a child is just a child. Recently, I had the good fortune to meet with Ian Gilbert, the founder of Independent Thinking People, (http://www.independentthinking.co.uk/people). Ian is an inspirational speaker and certainly knows a thing or two about the importance of a happy, healthy childhood. In order to thrive, he said, there are some critical psychological needs that must be in place:

  • Love and belonging – love is the greatest force of the universe and a loved child is a child that rises to the stars!
  • Fun – play, rest and leisure are as important as children’s academic lives. Childhood is the only time in their lives that they can and should enjoy life without pressures.
  • Nature and the great outdoors – long hours at school and extra-curricular indoor activities often deprive our children from nature, sunshine and Vit D
  • Power – the space to exercise choice is one of the most important things for a developing child. A child that is able to choose and have a say is a child that feels respected and heard. Choose your battles, folks!

Once we’ve created a healthy environment for our little people all year round, we can now look at these five strategies to ease them into the new school term:

Bach Flower Remedies

These little beauties are excellent to help us naturally address the core of the problem and restore emotional balance. Tried and tested remedies include:

 

Mimulus – It’s normal for children to feel fear at times of change but fear that compromises their sense of self, makes the stomach tense, impacts their sleep, creates anxiety, headaches, and puts them in a state of flight, fight or freeze, calls for Mimulus. Mimulus allows them to access their inner courage so they can face life in a more positive and confident way.

Clematis – Disconnecting from reality at times is natural and actually necessary, but constant daydreaming, absent-mindedness and sleepiness in children do not allow them to fully explore their potential.  Clematis can help to ground our children and regain focus so they SIT. DOWN. AND. DO. THEIR. HOMEWORK!

Walnut – Times of change are times of transition. As children change countries, schools, school years, teachers and friends, they need to harness their ability to let go and move on. Walnut provides a feel of protection and security, which is much needed when the mind struggles to accept and embrace new times.

 

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is good for us and it’s great for our children too! There is an emerging body of research that indicates that mindfulness can help our children improve their abilities to feel confident, calmer and happier within themselves. In short, it helps with emotional regulation and cognitive focus.

Fortunately there is a myriad schools and centers across Hong Kong that recognize and offer children Mindfulness opportunities.

 

Provide certainty as much as possible

The brain is a pattern-recognition machine that is constantly trying to predict the near future. It loves to make assumptions – usually negative ones – so making plans, mapping out chores, homework, and who does what is a great way to provide a child’s brain with more certainty.

If your child is starting a new school, visit the school, reach out to other parents for play dates, and connect with the teachers. Help your child to find his/her tribe.

If they are changing school years, make the time to attend introduction meetings together so they can meet other children who have or are going through the same experience. Ask to meet new teachers and form an open and honest relationship with them so that together you can support students on their social, emotional and academic journey.

 

Sleep

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF, US) recommends:

  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)

Sleep is especially important for children as it directly impacts their mental and physical development. Here are some ways to create a sleep-conducive environment:

  • Avoid any gadgets or TV 1-2hr before bedtime, replace with bedtime stories or a good book
  • Aim for bedtime at the same time every night so the brain and body are conditioned to learn when to ‘wind down and rest’
  • Use aromatherapy in room with oils such as Lavender
  • Use Mindfulness techniques to bring peace of mind before bedtime

 

Photo by Justin Young on Unsplash

 

Food for the brain

As our children whizz around all day long, their brains are growing just as rapidly, constantly developing and hungry for food. Nutrient-dense food is critical for brain function, memory and concentration.

 

But, as the super-lovely Cristina Tahoces, a nutritionist and owner of Thrive Nutrition Practice, points out, healthy school snacks are the bane of every parent’s existence. It’s very tempting to go for the every growing selection of healthy organic, gluten free, sugar free packaged bars but big city life requires a hefty dose of daily antioxidants to build immunity and to protect our children from the harmful effects of pollution. Fresh fruits and veggies pack the best antioxidant punch – especially when combined with healthy fats, like those found in avocados, nuts and seeds, she says.

Here, Cristina shares two healthy, delicious and easy-to-prepare recipes:

 

Recipes of the Month

 

CUCUMBER AVO BITES (makes about 6 bites)

 

 

Ingredients

  • 1 medium size cucumber
  • 1 avocado
  • A few sprigs of coriander (optional but great detoxifying herb)
  • 1-2 tspn lemon juice
  • Sea salt & pepper to taste

 

Method

  1. Chop 12 circular pieces from the cucumber which are about 1 cm thick.
  2. Put the coriander in a processor and whiz to chop finely.  Then put the remaining ingredients in the processor and blend to make avo mash.
  3. Take a piece of cucumber, spread the avo mash on top and top with another cucumber.
  4. Pack a few toothpicks for easy eating.

 

APPLE DONUTS

 

 

Ingredients

  • 1 apple
  • Seed butter of choice

 

Method

  1. Decore the apple.
  2. Cut the apple into circular pieces
  3. Spread the seed butter on top of the apple slices
  4. Sprinkle with shredded coconut, hemp seeds or a few goji berries

 

Rich in healthy fats, which lower inflammation in the body, these two snacks are also packed with fibre and antioxidants to keep your children fighting strong against circulating viruses and the harmful effects of air pollution.

Cristina Tahoces is a nutritionist and owner of Thrive Nutrition Practice. She specializes in digestive health, metabolic balancing and post-natal recovery.  Cristina zones in on nutritional deficiencies and digestive imbalances to address the root cause of her client’s symptoms.  She is a sought-after professional speaker for health & wellness conferences, schools and corporate events. Cristina has lived in Hong Kong for over 11 years and has two children in primary school, one of whom has yet to try a blueberry.  Even nutritionists have picky eaters, it seems!

 

Upcoming Events

 

Meditation with Kirtan at IMI Central
6.15-7.15pm, 18 Sept, 16 Oct, 20 Nov
In this unique blend of Kirtan, the usage of powerful yet gentle mantras, techniques and guidance, Cristina aims to help you to develop a simple mindfulness or meditation practice.
Fee: Free
To secure your seat book now by calling 2523.7121 or email: [email protected]
http://www.imi.com.hk/monday-mindfulness-beginners.html

Saturday Kirtan at Kita
6-7pm, 30 September, Kita Yoga, 1 U Lam Terrace, Sheung Wan
Monthly devotional Kirtan sessions where voices unite for powerful healing to take place. Together, we help our body soothe and release emotions through the powerful sounds produced by ancient sacred mantras.
Fee: $120 per session or $500 for a five-session package.

Bach Flower Remedies and Crystal Healing at Garden Gathering
13-15 October, Sai Yuen Farm, Cheung Chau Island
A beautiful community created by May Nogoy and Resham Daswani – Garden Gathering — bring together women and children to explore the arts, the song, and soulful practices of our community of women leading in love in Hong Kong.
International honorable guests from Asia and beyond.
Visit www.thegardengathering.com for more information.

Rising Goddess Girls DayFest
25th November
Sign your daughter up for a wonderful day of de-stress, creativity, and freedom to simply be!
Classes in yoga-dance, creative art and play, healthy cooking, aromatherapy, compassionate connections, chanting for inner peace, meditation, and crystals.
This is our third Girls event in conjunction with Michelle Harris of Pure Potential Worldwide.
For more information and to reserve a place, email [email protected].

 

A child is JUST a child

We often forget that a child is just a child.
Let’s create an environment in which they can thrive!

Wishing you all a successful new school year!

Cristina Rodenbeck,
Manipura Wellness Practice