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8 back to school health tips

How to ensure that kids have a happy and healthy return to school

The school holidays are drawing to a close and a new term is on the horizon. It’s a busy time for both children and parents but it can also be a source of anxiety for some youngsters. Coughs and colds tend to raise their head at this time of year, so it’s important to ensure that your children are as healthy and prepared as possible. Here are our expert tips to ensure a happy and healthy return to school for everyone.

1 Start early

“Over the long summer break, many of us relax some of our normal rules, whether that be allowing more screen time than normal, or having flexible bedtimes,” says Jade McLellan, Deputy Head Pastoral at St Dunstan's College in Catford, south London. “If you need to tighten up the schedule, try starting this at least a week before term starts, to ease your children in gently and avoid Sunday night battles. For older children who no longer wake at dawn, you will want to accustom them to waking at a regular time as well. Children who are well-rested are less likely to have fragile nerves in those initial days.”

2 Talk through scenarios in advance

“Children joining new schools, for example starting secondary school, often have hypothetical worries,” says Jade McLellan. “They might feel anxious about where to sit at lunch, becoming lost or getting in trouble with teachers. Ask your child if they have any worries and then allow your child to discuss with you how and who they could ask for help if they need it. Reassure your child that these are common worries, but you have confidence they will be able to cope if they occur, as you have seen them cope with challenging situations in the past.”

3 Make breakfast a priority

“Breakfast sets up your blood sugar levels for the day, and in turn this impacts the ability to pay attention and learn, so it’s vital for children going to school,” says Olga Preston, a registered nutritional therapy practitioner at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition’s Brain Bio Centre ( “Rather worryingly, most children in the UK have had more than half the recommended amount of sugar before getting to school and missing breakfast is associated with a 30 per cent shorter listening span. Too much sugar can lead the body to release high amounts of insulin and ultimately a crash of energy and a craving for more sugar. You should opt for breakfast options which are high in protein such as porridge oats with nut butter, eggs or baked beans, or some falafels with humous or chicken breast.”

4 Support their immune system

“When kids go back to school after the summer holidays there is usually a drop in temperature, and combined with being back to enclosed spaces with lots of other kids, there is usually a rise in infections,” explains Bee McGovern, Medical Herbalist, BSc (Hons) MNIMH ( “When it comes to immune function I always think about gut health and the microbiome. There are also a number of key nutrients that support healthy immune function. The saying ‘You are what you eat’ is 100 per cent true; our diet provides the building blocks for everything. Think of a rainbow diet, with a broad variety of coloured vegetables and fruits, along with healthy fats (nuts, seeds, oily fish) and good quality protein and you will be ensuring the right building blocks.”

5 Consider a good quality supplement

“If your child doesn’t eat a healthy and varied diet, this is most definitely the time of year to consider topping up with a good quality children’s probiotic and certain key vitamins and minerals,” says Bee McGovern. “A good quality children’s multivitamin should contain appropriate levels of bioavailable zinc, vitamins A, D and E, along with selenium, all of which support healthy immune function. Vitamin C is often worth topping up on separately, as levels in multivitamins are usually low. If you have any concerns about your child’s health then do consider getting professional tailored treatment advice specific to your child and their needs. It really can make the world of difference!”

6 Speak positively about school

“It is important for us to recognise that our own previous experiences can sometimes lead to bias in the way we speak with our children about school,” says Jade McLellan. “Remind your child of the positives of attending school, whether that be friendships, a favourite club, subject or teacher. Discuss the new opportunities they might have this year and what they are most looking forward to. Focus on looking forwards, not only looking back.”

7 Speak to your child’s form teacher if needed

“At St Dunstan’s, we always remind our new parents that we are a team, seeking to raise children to adulthood together,” says Jade McLellan. “If your child seems more anxious than you think they should be, mention it to your child’s teacher so they can keep an eye out or schedule some check in time with your child. Generally, UK teachers return to school earlier than their pupils for INSET, so ask a member of your child’s pastoral team to give you a quick call if you are concerned that your child is not on track to have a successful return in September.”

8 Finally, try to relax!

“The first few days are often challenging as children adjust to new expectations and become reacquainted with full days of studying, socialising and attending extra-curricular activities,” says Jade McLellan. “For most children, a couple of weeks should be enough to resettle into their normal routine. Once settled in, you can then focus your efforts on trying to get a response when you ask, ‘How was school today?”

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