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Term time!

How to ensure that children return to school as healthy and happy as possible

The summer holidays are coming to an end and a new school year is beginning. Many children may well be feeling a mixture of excitement and nervousness at the prospect of returning to school. Here are some expert tips for how to support children’s immunity, energy and concentration levels and to allay any anxiety about the new term.

For immune system support...

Lorraine Perretta, a registered nutritional therapist from the Institute for Optimum Nutrition’s Brain Bio Centre (, recommends encouraging children to eat a ‘rainbow diet’ in order to obtain a range of nutrients. This essentially means eating vegetables and fruits in a variety of natural colours.

“This also feeds helpful bacteria in the gut, which play a fundamental part in regulating a healthy immune response and ensuring the body can recognise invaders,” explains Lorraine.

For a good night’s sleep...

“Sleep is essential for everyone,” says Lorraine. “School children ideally need between nine and 13 hours per night. Studies have shown that sufficient sleep helps the immune system to work well, with chronic sleep deprivation an independent risk factor for impaired immunity. It’s important to prioritise quality sleep by eating meals at least a couple of hours before bedtime.”

For sustained energy levels...

“Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in helping to release energy from the food we eat,” says Lorraine. “Making sure that we have enough magnesium in our diet is important to help support normal muscle and psychological function, plus maintain a normal functioning nervous system. Here are some top tips to incorporate more magnesium into your child’s diet:

For focus and concentration...

“The essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 are both needed for healthy brain function,” says Lorraine. “Good sources of omega-3 include oily fish such as salmon, which the government recommends we eat at least once per week, as well as eggs and seeds for omega-6. Make sure that children’s main meal is packed with lots of vegetables for all the essential vitamins and minerals, and always aim for at least five portions daily. Also avoid bad fats, such as hydrogenated trans fats found in processed foods such as cakes, pastries, frozen pizza and fried foods.”

4 ways to ease your child’s anxiety

Dr Tom Micklewright, Associate Medical Director at Push Doctor ( offers some tips for how parents and guardians can support their children who may be feeling anxious about returning to school.

1. Recognise the problem
Begin by recognising a problem in the first place. Some children may be able to express exactly how they’re feeling. For others though, you may just notice a change in behaviour. Is an outgoing, sociable child unusually quiet or reclusive? Is an independent child now clingy, or nervous about either parent being out of sight? Have outgrown behaviours, like thumb sucking, blanket holding or bedwetting returned? Is a child uncharacteristically low in self-esteem or lacking interest in activities that they usually find enjoyable? All of these can indicate that a child is struggling and could be a manifestation of a psychological problem.

2. Spend some quality time together
A child, whether they’re five or 15, won’t open up unless they feel safe to do so. It’s therefore really important to make sure you’re spending quality time together and invest in that relationship. What is quality time? It is time spent together, being totally present and doing things you both enjoy. During these moments, you can lead by example, talking about your own emotions until it becomes a new family norm. Children will open up when they feel safe, so always be ready to drop what you’re doing and talk, whenever they start a conversation.

3. Validate their worries
In trying to reassure a child that there’s nothing to worry about, we can inadvertently be dismissive. This can send a message to the child that the way they’re feeling is not important and they can close up. So, no matter how small or obscure the worry may seem, make sure you validate it. Help your child to put a name to how they’re feeling and let them know that it’s normal and that you understand why they feel that way.

4. Offer some reassurance
If a particular problem seems solvable, try helping your child to come up with solutions. Encourage them to suggest as many as they can themselves, so that they feel in control of the situation. Ask “what could we do to help this situation?” For problems that are less solvable, such as “I don’t want my friends to get poorly”, your child likely needs reassurance and reminders about the facts. Without a true grasp of the facts, children often build up their own version of reality, which can include scary worst-case scenarios. Checking their understanding and correcting any misinformation, in an age-appropriate way, can be very reassuring.”

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