Back to School & How to Try to Keep Your Teens Healthy

This fall, I know many teens were excited about moving away to university for their first year. Expectations have changed, and this year will look a lot different because of the virus. Life has completely changed for back to school for parents and kids of all ages this year. Many university students will live at home and study online, some will still move away, but student life will be very different.

So, what do we do? How do we cope? How do we feel good about sending our kids away to school, near or far? How do we equip our kids with what they need to stay healthy, when many of us know that university life was anything but healthy!

I am one of those parents with one child in university, as many 40-something and 50-something parents are. Going into his second year, we decided to send our son away even though he can complete the semester online.

Our philosophy as parents is that we want our children to live as normal as possible during this virus, and while being cautious is important, instilling fear in our children will not benefit them. To us, their mental health is of the utmost importance. We have talked to them about vigilant hand washing, keeping their circle of friends tight, and maintaining self-awareness and awareness of those around them. We will also equip our son with some essentials to keep his immune health in check. This seems to be a huge factor missing from the numerous measures put in place by government officials. While nothing, not masks or social distancing are guarantees, having a robust immune system is of equal importance and often not even mentioned.

As a Nutritionist, I have taught my children that chronic fear disables the immune system. This seems to be a factor that many forget or don’t realize. While all of us are currently living in a state of unknown, worrying about getting the virus, what others are doing or not doing, and what will happen in the future are not within our direct control. I say to my children all the time – concern yourself only with what you can directly control.

You can control what you put into your body. Equip your children with the gift of knowing what whole, real foods are, and how they can ensure they get this in their bodies as much and as often as they can. Teach them what to look for with the options they have available. I am making a recipe guide for my son of simple, quick recipes he can cook at his home. If your child is going into residence, teach them what to look for in their food choices.

I will be sending him away with some essentials. For my son, he will get melatonin, vitamin D, omega 3’s, probiotics, vitamin c, and zinc lozenges. These are basics for immune health and for brain health. It is best to work with a Nutritionist to know what nutraceuticals are best for you and your family as well as for access to therapeutic-grade nutraceuticals.

My children are both athletes, and they know the importance of movement and consistent exercise for general health and well-being. They have also known from a young age how critical sleep is to their immune and brain health.

I have taught my children how to breathe. While they may not quite be there to learn meditation, we can teach them how to be mindful of their thoughts and manage their feelings healthfully. We use the 4-7-8 method from Dr. Andrew Weil. It’s an easy way to reset when you’re under stress or just feel fear, as we all do now and again. Breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, release the breath for 8 seconds. Do this 4 times in a row as often as you need to (not while operating machinery).

We all feel fear and a loss of control now and again, lack sleep and make poor diet choices at times, but we need to teach our kids that their health starts with their habits and choices and living balanced – this all goes for parents too! Poor diet, lack of exercise and sleep and constant, chronic fear and stress will only hurt us. Equipping them (and us!) with concrete tools to remain in a healthy state – body, mind and spirit – will prove invaluable as we head into the new school year.

Note that this is not medical advice and see your own practitioner about what is right for you and your family.

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