How to Get Your Family Ready for Back to School Brita Mutti, ND, FABNO

Before you know it, the summer will be over and the school year will be upon us. When thinking about getting back to school, there is more than new clothes and school supplies to consider. Ask yourself how you plan to support the general wellness of your children, and yourself, at a time of year that can be stressful and full of big changes.

Managing Stress

Stress can wear down even the healthiest people, and can make transitions more difficult for kids and adults. One thing we can do is change how we manage, or respond to, stress. Good stress management skills can have a tremendous impact on creating a better sense of well-being. The trick with good stress management is figuring out what works well for you and your children and sticking with it on a daily basis. It is important to have multiple ways to manage stress in order to cope when multiple stressors add up. Relaxing activities including hobbies, laughter, prayer, meditation, and deep breathing are all healthy stress relievers. Maintaining as consistent a routine as possible is also a key way to reduce stress.

Physical activity

Physical activity is an excellent tool for stress management and for fostering well-being. While kids may get exercise at school, it is important that they engage in some sort of physical activity when they are not in school as well.


Sleep is when our bodies repair themselves. 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep for adults offer the maximum benefit. Children need even more. 3-6 year olds need 10-12 hours a night. 7-12 year olds need 10-11 hours a night, and 12-18 year olds need 8-9 hours. Be sure that your kids have a healthy going-to-bed routine and are getting to bed early enough to get a full night’s sleep on school nights. A dark room, without light from items like alarm clocks or nightlights, helps our brain to produce melatonin and induce sleep. Watching TV or playing video games before bed or drinking caffeine in the afternoon can make it hard for anyone to sleep well. Even with these habits in place, many people struggle with initiating and maintaining sleep. Consult with your naturopathic doctor about ways to improve sleep quality.

Plant-based diet

With desserts, sweet treats and rewards aplenty at school, it is important to support you child’s health at home with a healthy, balanced diet. A plant-based diet is a diet that is 2/3 or more from plant sources: fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. The new American plate, which has replaced the food pyramid, is mostly plant based. Focus on consuming liberal amounts of fruits and vegetables in a rainbow of colors. The pigment in the food is what is responsible for its color and the different pigments have different nutritional benefits.


Our bodies are made up of 60% water. Water is needed to prevent constipation, lubricate our joints, moisten our eyes and mouth, and carry nutrients throughout our body. Staying hydrated helps our kidneys remove waste from our blood. Drinks containing caffeine and alcohol are dehydrating. Children should drink half their weight in ounces to be adequately hydrated. So if your child weighs 80 pounds, they should be drinking at least 40 ounces of water or herbal teas each day. This is especially important in the late summer when it is hot and dry in Colorado.


Feelings of loneliness and isolation take a toll on the mental and physical health of parents and children. Family and friends can help brighten our mood. With busy school and work schedules during the school year, be sure to set aside as much time as possible for your family to be together. Activities such as family meals and game nights are a good way to improve everyone’s chances of staying happy and healthy.

Staying Involved With Your Child

With the beginning of a new school year, giving your child the emotional and moral support they need is critical. Focus on the positive. What are their strengths? Encourage their ability to handle new and challenging situations by practicing some scenarios (what if you need to go to the bathroom during class?) and making them aware of the people who can help them out. It is surprising how many children need to be reminded that it’s ok to ask for what they need.


As your child begins school, don’t overwhelm them with questions, but do give them opportunities to share and talk about their new experiences. Be sure to stay in touch with their emotions, and be observant concerning behaviors that may indicate your child is struggling with academics, friendships or in comprehending instructions. Are they experiencing difficulty sleeping? Are they crying more? Do they have changes in appetite or other signs of frustration? Be aware of difficulties with listening and maintaining attention, organization, excessive talking, fidgeting, interrupting, impulsiveness and unreasonable fears. If this isn’t your child’s first year in school, you probably have some useful feedback about your child’s strengths and needs from previous teachers.

Untreated phobias, anxiety, ADHD or learning disabilities can have serious long-term affects on your child’s life and school experience. Because there are multiple contributing factors in developing these conditions, and they frequently overlap, treatments must be strategic and tailored to the unique needs of your child. Consulting your naturopathic doctor can help you put your child’s situation in perspective, evaluate any symptoms and understand a possible range of treatments.