I've always thought of September as the new year. As primarily an academic - and as a mother - September is reminiscent of Anne of Green Gables' sentiment that "tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it." After a restful summer my energy is highest, my ambition greatest, and my optimism most sincere.
However, September in my household - like for most families - is a rude shift from the quieter pace of July and August. Even though there may be camps to get to and lunches to make, September also brings the extra demands of extra-curricular activities and homework. September often makes me wish we homeschooled ...
There are a few strategies that save our household from collapsing into chaos. Focusing on the pillars of good health - nutrition, sleep, physical activity and stress management - I hope there are some pearls that help your family cope with the fall!
Getting good nutrition can be tough in the midst of a busy routine. Menu planning is your friend! Sit down as a family to make a list of everyone’s favourites, including leisurely family meals and grab-and-go options. Once you’ve got a master list, use it to create a menu for the week based on activities planned each day. Shop for what you need and do any necessary pre-prep (veggie-chopping, grains-cooking, etc.) to save time on the nights when there are two music lessons and a cub scout meeting. Planning meals not only promotes sanity, it also improves nutritional intake and reduces expense and food waste. Try adding a new item or two to the master list each week! If you need some guidance, come in and talk me about the qualities of an ideal diet (think lots of veggies, lean protein, healthy fats and whole grains), and find out if anyone is a candidate for nutritional supplementation. Vitamin D is critical for everyone, especially as the days get shorter, and fish oils are super helpful for kids' brain development.
School-aged kids should be accumulating at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity, but most kids don’t get enough. Not only does exercise keep them fit, but it helps them stay sharp in the classroom too! Look for ways to build activity into your family routine; kids are more likely to be active if their parents are - hint, hint! Get outside and throw a Frisbee; go for an after-dinner bike ride; try crosscountry skiing - being outside has bonus benefits! Trying to keep up with your kids as you get older can take a toll on your body ... let me know if you need some injury support! Ask about acupuncture or natural anti-inflammatory products that can get you back in the game!
Sleep is critical for growing bodies. Inadequate sleep interferes with metabolism, hormone production, mood and learning. Most school-aged kids do not get enough, but they need as much as 9-11 hours of sleep per night in order to be at their best. Some strategies to promote sleep include keeping a predictable routine; having a dark bedroom; building in a “wind-down” time before sleep; and minimizing screen-based media, especially in the 30 minutes before bed. Under no circumstances should your child be using screens in his/her bedroom - it is one of the strongest predictors of poor sleep. Come see me if anyone in your brood struggles with sleep; a combination of sleep hygiene strategies and relaxing herbs or supplements can help carry you or your little one safely off to dreamland.
Stress levels can increase for everyone as kids head back to school, affecting sleep, immunity, weight and mood. Perception of control is an important factor; our family holds regular family meetings to ensure everyone is doing okay, and problem solve if anyone is struggling. Kids feel stress more than we sometimes realize; listening empathically and non-judgmentally helps foster attachment, which reduces stress and builds resilience. Sharing gratitude at family meals, or trying meditation or yoga together can help everyone cope when the pressure begins to rise. If stress becomes unmanageable, I can help through counselling or natural health products that can gently boost resilience. Don’t forget the power of sleep, physical activity and time outside to reduce stress!
If nutrition, physical activity levels, sleep and stress management are all under control, your family should sail through fall with flying colours! These are the pillars of great health, and will keep your family strong. However, talk to me about strategies for additional immune system support, since fall also marks the onset of cold and flu season. Happy fall!!