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School’s back!

Health tips for back-to-school success

Returning to school after the summer holidays can be a daunting experience for many children and parents. If you or your children have anxieties or worries about going back to school, then read on for some expert tips which might help.

Get prepared with your child

“It’s understandable that going back to school may make us and our children feel a little anxious,” says Dr Hannah Wilson, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Head of Clinical Governance and Clinical Psychology Lead at “Some worries around returning to school can include new classmates, different teachers, and moving up to a different school or college entirely. Including your child in back to school or college preparations is one way to try and build some excitement about the new term ahead.

This might involve:

Completing back to school preparations together can help both you and your child feel more confident going into the academic year. Each child will vary with how much help and independence they want in getting ready for the term.”

Validate their feelings

If your child is feeling anxious about returning to school, then it’s important to “validate those anxiety feelings,” says Paul Hanrahan, a teacher from the St Andrew’s Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service College and LightBulb Mental Wellness Programme for Schools Lead ( He adds: “It is normal to feel anxious, so reassure the child of that. Encourage conversation about returning to school. Allow them to open up about difficult feelings and give an opportunity to cooperatively problem-solve any practical worries.”

Practise good organisational skills

“There are many tactics parents can use to help ease anxiety associated with the new school year and help children prepare for the term ahead,” says Ryan Lockett, a former secondary school head of year and now director of studies at TLC LIVE (, a tutoring company. “First off, practising good organisational skills in the lead up to the new year will help children feel more willing to carry out their work: focusing on how to break tasks down into manageable chunks is an invaluable coping mechanism. Understanding the importance of planning and preparation is proven to reduce stress and anxiety levels. Make sure any homework or summer tasks have been completed ahead of time. Don’t let this wait until the week of returning. Get it done in good time; it will help reduce anxiety related to incomplete work.”

Check out the school

“This can be helpful if your child is starting a new school or transitioning from primary to secondary,” says Dr Hannah Wilson. “Schools often have open days where your child can visit beforehand. This might soothe some difficult feelings, allow them to get a sense of what to expect before they start, and perhaps even make them feel excited about the next stage of their education. If you don’t go to the open days, or if they don’t feel right for your child, check out the school’s website. Doing so can help your child get a feel for the school, find out what the school day might look like, and see what extra-curricular clubs are available. You might even want to practise doing the journey to school a few times beforehand (either with them or by allowing them to go independently, if that feels appropriate), so they get familiar with the route.”

Re-establish connections with parents and kids

“Depending on the age of your child, it might be useful to get in touch with some parents at the school and arrange playdates with other children,” says Dr Hannah Wilson. “This is a great way for your child to reconnect with their friends from school and help build excitement around the new term. Or, if going to a new school and they know they are going to the same school, why not help them arrange to meet up before the term starts? Knowing even just one person might help your child feel a bit more comfortable if they feel nervous. Being in touch with other parents is also a great way to share information and to keep in the loop with back-to-school details.”

Try this!

“Start talking about school in a positive way,” says Ryan Lockett. “Encouragement and positivity will help a child to feel a sense of excitement and look forward to returning.”

Top tips!

“While it’s important for your child to build a network for themselves, having like-minded friends and acquaintances can help you feel less alone and validate your emotions and experiences,” says Dr Hannah Wilson. “Joining or creating a parent group chat with others from the school can be a good way to connect, keep in the loop, and make friends.”

“Sometimes the mornings can be such a rush, but making time for breakfast is important, even if it is something quick,” says Penny Weston (, a nutrition, wellness and fitness expert and the director of award-winning Moddershall Oaks Country Spa Retreat. “Overnight oats are really popular. You can make them the night before and pop them in the fridge so they are ready to go in the morning. I like to add a little bit of cocoa the night before so it tastes like chocolate!”

Nutritional knowhow

“Taking care of children’s health is super important,” says Tina Lond-Caulk, a nutritionist, author of Eat Well and Feel Great and ambassador for Revive Active ( “Let’s dive into some nutritional tips that can help maintain their immunity, boost their brainpower and concentration and keep their energy levels steady.”

Children’s immunity

Include a variety of colourful rainbow fruits and vegetables every day as they are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that support the immune system. Aim for three fruit and five vegetable fist-sized portions a day ideally. Incorporate pre- and probiotic-rich foods like live yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, leeks, onions, to promote a healthy gut, which is closely linked to a strong immune system. Make sure they get enough protein from sources like lean meats, poultry, fish, beans and lentils as protein is essential for good immunity.

Brain development

Nutrients essential for brain development and cognitive function include omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish (such as wild salmon, mackerel and sardines), flaxseeds, chia seeds or walnuts. A couple of portions of oily fish a week are recommended. Choose unrefined wholegrains like oats, brown rice, wholemeal or rye breads which provide a steady release of energy to support brain function. A balanced breakfast including protein, wholegrains and a piece of fruit will help to kickstart their day and improve concentration. This has been found in studies to improve academic outcome and exam results. Limit added sugars and highly processed foods as they can lead to energy crashes and difficulty concentrating.

Steady energy levels

Try balancing the plate with 25 per cent protein, 25 per cent carbohydrates and 50 per cent rainbow colourful veggies with a dessertspoon of healthy fats. This ensures steady, stable energy all day long. Encourage regular meals and snacks (if necessary) to prevent hunger dips and energy crashes. Keep them well hydrated as even mild dehydration can cause fatigue.

Dietary ideas

1. Try offering a daily super nutrient smoothie made with green leaves, fruit like frozen berries and a banana, live yogurt or kefir and nut butter and top up with water.

2. Offer crudités of fresh, chopped raw veggies and hummus or mackerel pate on rye crackers as an afternoon snack.

3. A daily bowl of mixed veggie soup with added tinned beans or lentils made with homemade bone broth is a great source of nutrients for even the fussiest of eaters.

4. Adding tinned beans or legumes to all your dishes such as bolognese, chilli, casserole and curries provides extra fibre and protein.

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