Gearing Up Kids Mentally and Physically For SchoolJul 29, 2022 01:00PM ● By Veena Verma-Dzik
School is as quick to start, as it is quick to end. Time to get those calendars ready to have all plans set in place with work and kids’ activities. We tend to get so caught up in school supplies, clothes shopping and signing up for sports and activities, that we forget about what truly matters during the school year. That is the mental and physical well-being of our children.
Along with making sure your child is fully stocked with school supplies and organized, it is a more important time to think about doing all you can to make sure they are mentally and physically healthy throughout the upcoming school year.
Health data has shown that as many as one in six children between the ages of six and 17 are diagnosed with anxiety, depression and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other mental health disorders. With the pandemic the past couple of years, it would not be surprising if this statistic has sadly risen. The stress and pressure children are under today cannot compare to our experiences when we were their age. From social life to academics, and even the unsteadiness in the world, children are faced with a great amount of stressors.
How Can We Make Things Easier For Our Kids?
Since summer has gone by and everyone has been out of routine, expert child/teen therapist, Nina Leventon, suggests to start getting your kids back on schedule two weeks before school starts. Getting back into routine is really important for alleviating stress and anxiety. Having your child involved in back-to-school shopping and planning will help them get excited and look forward to a new school year.
Include meals as part of school preparation, too. Nutrition plays a vital role in both physical and mental health. Children who consume a nutritious diet, that includes fruits and vegetables, exhibit an overall more positive outlook and healthy mental well-being.
A study in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine mentions some of the foods that help alleviate anxiety are those which are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts and edamame. The anti-anxiety benefits of foods high in omega-3s is believed to be due to their anti-inflammatory effects. When it comes to depression, omega-3 fatty acids have positive effects on brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels. Fish is also a good source of vitamin B6, which is a common deficiency seen with mood disorders.
Make sure to start a child’s day with protein. The building blocks of protein, amino acids, make up key neurotransmitters that are essential for optimal brain function and cognitive performance. Protein helps balance out blood sugar levels throughout the day, and gives the fuel we need to focus. Furthermore, foods high in protein help produce neurotransmitters that help alleviate symptoms associated with anxiety, depression, ADHD and other mental health disorders.
At times, we need to incorporate other tools along with planning, organization and nutrition to help support our children. Sometimes we cannot prevent our children from becoming ill, especially during cold and flu season and when they are exposed to germs. Taking supplements to optimize immune health does help shorten the duration and decrease the severity of illnesses when they hit home.
The most highly studied supplements that have been shown to be beneficial to our immune system include vitamin C, zinc, mushrooms and vitamin D. Let’s not forget that vitamin D not only plays a role in the functioning of white blood cells and activates genes that regulate the immune system, but it also plays a role in neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin.
Ashwagandha is a favorite adaptogenic herb because it can target so many health concerns. It helps balance stress hormones, alleviate anxiety, improve blood sugar and energy, enhance focus and concentration and much more.
Another herb great for children is passionflower. Passionflower works well to ease those nerves and anxiety and improve sleep—particularly when the sleep disruption is due to those little minds racing.
Magnesium is a commonly known mineral used to help both children and adults with anxiety. Magnesium, along with many other vitamins, such ass B12 and folate, are also key nutrients that support the methylation pathway. For those who have MTHFR gene mutations and other SNPs, these vitamins are essential for supporting this pathway along with neurotransmitter synthesis and breakdown.
More to Consider
There are countless ways to help your child prepare for school that will support their overall well-being. For some, a little more effort may be needed. If you have tried many different supplements and herbs on your own and are still finding your child struggling either mentally or emotionally, there are other therapies that can be pursued, including cognitive behavioral therapy or dialectical behavioral therapy.
Furthermore, having their nutrition, neurotransmitters or perhaps MTHFR and SNPS evaluated can provide many answers to imbalances and deficiencies. This will provide a more in-depth, individualized, targeted therapy that will better support the success of your child in school and in life. Overall, knowing that there is a strong support system in place will help you and your child enjoy a healthy year.
Liz Jorgensen has 30 year’s experience with adolescent and adult psychotherapy and counseling. She is a nationally recognized expert in counseling, particularly in engaging resistant tee... Read More »
Dr. Verma specializes in treating patients with Lyme disease and other vector-borne infections, women’s health, ADD/ADHD, GI conditions, MTHFR, mood imbalances, allergies, fatigue and hor... Read More »