It’s August and for many, summer may have felt like it was on fast-forward and it is already time to start planning those school year ‘soccer parent’ routines again. August is typically associated with back to school shopping for new clothes and stationary but have you considered using the back to school preparatory month to improve or optimize your kids’ health?
Some reasons why adding health and wellness appointments to your kids’ back to school preparation lists is a good idea include: Optimizing their immune system prior to exposure can help reduce their chance of catching bugs since going back to school means more exposure to viruses and other ‘bugs’; helping to find solutions to prevent and/or relieve back pain that kids, especially older kids may experience from carrying loads of textbooks every day; and, helping your child address any anxiety which can affect their school performance, sleep, and social interactions.
Bring on the “Germs”
Often, the start of the school year means many children begin falling sick as they are exposed to many people and objects and germs are ‘flying’ around. This also means, you as a parent, may have to take more sick leave from work to stay home with your kids.
Having a strong immune system helps children fight viruses and bacteria more readily, reduces the duration of colds and flu’s and may even reduce the number of times they fall sick this school year.
Building a strong immune system means having good digestive function since most of your immune system lies in the gut. Sometimes this can mean more than just taking probiotics, vitamin D, and some immune support. If your child is prone to diarrhea, loose bowel movements, constipation, always complaining of a ‘tummy ache’ there could be more going on. Further, if your child has eczema, asthma, and/or allergies, it could mean potential food sensitivities or possibly leaky gut. Having your child see a naturopathic doctor can help identify the cause of your child’s digestive upset and/or optimize your child’s immune system and overall, improve your kids’ health.
Backpacks and Back Discomfort
Sometimes, particularly in older kids and teenagers, the start of school results in back pain complaints. The most common cause of back pain in schoolchildren is carrying backpacks on their back improperly or carrying a heavy load. A heavy load on the back will cause the person to hunch forward leading to poor posture and an abnormal spinal curvature.
Backpacks should be worn on the back with straps over both shoulders and straps should be tightened so the bag sits on the upper back and doesn’t hang down. When the bag is worn with loose straps, it hangs down and pulls the shoulders down, arching the spine. Carrying a backpack on one shoulder will compress the spine, shift the spine in a lateral curvature and increase the risk of your child developing scoliosis.
Further, maintaining good posture and healthy spinal alignment can improve kids’ health by enhancing nervous system function which may help in improving learning, concentration, and memory, and enhance physical activity.
Chiropractors can help with spinal alignment but naturopathic doctors are trained in acupuncture and can help address any muscular pain your child may experience.
Back to school often signifies a lot of anxiety for many children from starting a new school, a new class, having to make new friends, or maybe they have been a victim of bullying in the past and are scared of being bullied again. Addressing any anxiety provoking moments in your children early on, can lessen the anxiety for the new school year and help them have an enjoyable year which can increase their academic and social performance as well. Childhood anxiety can lead to withdrawal from social situations and other activities, isolation, and depression which is why addressing emotional health in children and teenagers continues to be so important.
Some tips on helping your child cope with any anxiety include providing them with a supportive environment at home where they can talk about anything that bothers them. Talk to them about what they are most excited about for the new school year and what they are least looking forward to and then help them find something positive in whatever makes them least excited to go back to school. If you are noticing that your child has recently started having problems sleeping through the night, it could be anxiety or anticipation anxiety from going back to school keeping them awake. Turning to melatonin supplementation may help with their sleep but may not resolve the cause.
Please remember that sometimes, children and teenagers find it easier to talk to a trusted healthcare professional rather than their parents to resolve their anxiety so if your child or teen isn’t opening up to you, don’t be frustrated – there is another avenue!
If you do not want your child to begin taking antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, there are lots of natural treatments that naturopathic doctors have for helping kids and teenagers cope with anxiety from foods and nutritional supplementation to acupuncture or acupressure or even just providing an avenue for a non-family member to listen to their concerns.
Who To See?
Are you now thinking about making a doctor’s appointment for your child (ren) but not quite sure who to see? Maybe you are having difficulty getting a doctor’s appointment for your kids before they go back to school? Naturopathic medicine can treat many kids’ health concerns ranging from any digestive discomfort to anxiety. If you are unsure, many naturopathic doctors offer FREE 15 minute meet and greets to discuss how he or she will be able to help your child.
Golden Rule: Good health habits that are implemented in childhood are easier to carry forward into adult life!