This post is part of my ongoing partnership with Pure Encapsulations®
Confession: I’m not one of those parents who gets into all the back to school madness. I don’t stress about it and start preparing weeks in advance. I don’t do fun lunches using special containers, heck I don’t even make Norah’s lunch! She buys the school lunch and loves it.
What I DO focus on is optimizing her nutrition and creating healthy habits. I want Norah to learn how to take care of herself and her body, especially when her life gets busy and the stress starts to build up.
Norah just started middle school this year and she plays travel soccer, so teaching her about self-care is super important right now as she navigates much more responsibility and demands on her time.
So, what does self-care even look like for a 12 year old?
In our house it means getting good sleep, paying attention to what her body wants, and targeted nutrition.
This year we went from an 8:50 am bus to a 6:50 am bus. Yikes, right? That means early mornings for both of us. What once was a leisurely morning of French toast while watching cartoons has now become a 20-minute mad dash out the door…into the still-dark morning. To get up at our negotiated time of 6:15 am, Norah has to be pretty well-prepped the night before… that means not putting off her shower until morning (yes, she was the Queen of that), outfit is chosen, water is filled up and in the fridge, and backpack is stocked and ready to go. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 6-13 year olds need 9-11 hours of sleep. This may sound simple enough, but with soccer practice, homework, dinner, shower, and down time – 9:00 pm is not always a sure thing!
AN APPLE A DAY…
When fall hits and school starts, I ask Norah to eat an apple every day, whether it’s in the morning when she’s running out the door, as part of her after-school snack, or after dinner for dessert (we love warmed apples with cinnamon, so good!)
The “apple a day” proverb dates back to the 19th century, and you know I love the idea of ancient wisdom! That said, science has also shown us over and over again that apples are pretty great for our health. They’re rich in antioxidants like quercetin, polyphenols, and pectin. Pectin is a prebiotic soluble fiber that’s fermented by the good bacteria in the gut, and may be the reason apples support a healthy weight, heart, metabolism and digestive system. Apples are uniquely health-promoting and true superfoods!
FEED YOUR BRAIN
Back to school and brain health go hand in hand, right? Childhood is a period of rapid brain growth and maturation, and long chain omega-3 fats (DHA and EPA) are essential for normal brain function. DHA is found mostly in fish, and because intake among children is typically low, studies show support for cognition with supplementation. Studies also suggest an important role for DHA in school performance. The PureNutrients EPA/DHA Gummy is a great option to help Norah get in enough of these important nutrients, and it’s even better that they come in a chewable, fruit flavored, sugar-free gummy! I give her one of these 2-3 times a week. She also loves canned tuna, sushi, and smoked salmon, so we include those regularly, too!‡
Norah has always been a big water drinker, but it’s easy to get behind in her intake once school starts, especially when she forgets her water bottle and the school water fountain isn’t the most desirable water source! Given she’s so active it’s super important she stays hydrated throughout the day versus trying to catch up when she’s already behind. Research also suggests that adequately hydrated children may perform better in school.
It’s so important to teach kids to listen to their bodies and their hunger, especially when their schedule changes. Because Norah is getting up so early this year, she’s just not that hungry for breakfast. So what used to be one of her biggest meals is now not that big at all. And this is okay because she has a pretty early lunch at 10:45 am. But most importantly, when kids tell you they aren’t hungry, it’s important to listen. Let them feel in charge of their bodies, including what they eat and when they eat. This is a skill that will serve them well into adulthood. So while a super light breakfast might not be YOUR preference, it might be what your child prefers.
Starting a new school year can be a challenge for the immune system, not just because you have a large group of middle schoolers together all in one place, but also because it can be a stressful time. Norah started a new school, she has a lot more homework, and she has to manage a rigorous soccer schedule. Staying proactive and preemptive is my strategy, and providing her with an extra layer of protection is pretty easy with PureNutrients Gummies. This comprehensive multivitamin/mineral complex is made with organic fruit, and features a blend of 17 activated vitamins and chelated minerals for optimal efficacy. These tasty fruit flavored gummies are no brainers — they’re free from gelatin, artificial flavors and colors, hydrogenated fats, gluten, GMOs, common allergens, preservatives, and other unnecessary ingredients. And each PureNutrients Gummy contains just 1/2 a gram of sugar, compared to 2 g in many other gummies on the market, using a low-glycemic, plant-based prebiotic fiber and natural sweeteners.‡
It’s so important to teach kids how to love themselves, and part of that is learning to recognize when they’re starting to feel overwhelmed or stressed about school, grades, expectations, and friends. We assume that kids know how to manage stress in their lives, but oftentimes they don’t. It can be confusing and scary to feel the pressure to fit in, get good grades, excel at their sport, and just “succeed” in general. Helping Norah learn how to respect herself, recognize her limits, set boundaries, and speak up about what she needs has made a big difference in how she experiences and handles stress. When she takes the time to re-energize and recharge regularly, she’s less likely to experience an overload from the daily stressors in her life.
Here are some kid-focused activities that can help foster a supportive (and fun!) self-care practice:
- Playing with slime
- Listening to music
- Make a funny video
- Playing outside
- Laughing and being silly
- Taking a nap
- Get a pedicure or manicure
- Take a bath
- Watch funny animal videos
- Taking a kids yoga class
- Baking or cooking
- Reading for fun
I’d love to hear how you prepare your kiddos for the stress of back to school. Please share your tips in the comments or here in my Facebook group!
‡These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.