Back to school already?! I'll bet that sentiment has probably been uttered in your household recently. The seemingly abrupt end to summer vacation can be a really tough transition for many kiddos. And, it makes sense why it can be so challenging. After a couple months of loose bedtimes, relaxed schedules, and time outdoors, we ask kiddos to suddenly switch gears back to rigid bedtimes, packed schedules, and far too much time indoors. For most children, summer feels good. Especially once children become teenagers, and their circadian rhythm start to shift, the ability to sleep in probably feels downright therapeutic. Alas, all good things must come to an end, and summer is no different. Below are some thoughts to support your child's health through this challenging time of year and some specific ideas to nourish their spirt as well!
We are entering late summer/autumn. In Chinese medicine, this time of year corresponds with the organ systems of the large intestine and the lungs, making it the perfect opportunity to support colon and immune health! Let's start with the lungs:
Teach your child some breathing skills. I like to focus on expanding inhales and collapsing exhales. I typically explain it to kiddos in my office like this, "Ok, you're going to take a deep breath in through your nose like you are smelling the prettiest smelling flower (or insert your child's favorite smelling item here). Then, when you breathe out, pretend like you are blowing out your birthday candles!" Just starting to pay attention to their breath can have a profound impact on their overall health. It helps to regulate the nervous system as well as oxygenate the lungs and improve immune function. Start there and ask them to just do three rounds to begin. You can keep building as they get more practiced at controlling their breath
Incorporate in some lung nourishing foods into their diet. One of my favorite late summer/early fall recipes is to bake or poach a pear with either a cinnamon stick or some raw ginger. Pears are super moistening for the lungs, so especially if you live in a drier climate and are already feeling that little tickle at the back of your throat. Ginger and cinnamon can really help to support the immune system, so it's a great combo if your kid tends to get that cough inevitably goes around at the beginning of the school year!
Experiment with skin brushing! The skin has a very close relationship to the lungs in Chinese Medicine. Skin brushing can support the lymphatic system, so it's a great practice to help get your child's immune system in tip-top shape before the fall sniffles set in! Generally, skin brushing is done in clockwise circles, on the limbs and torso, towards the heart.
Ok, let's talk large intestine next:
This organ is all about letting go, expelling what we don't need, and we can mirror this action by= clearing out something that is no longer useful! It's the perfect time of year for your child to give a toy away to a friend or donate some clothing to a charity.
To support healthy elimination, be sure that your child is drinking water! This is the best way to encourage intestinal motility. You can spruce up their water by adding blueberries, lemon, cucumbers, watermelon, basil - whatever might make it more appealing! Be sure that they have picked out a water bottle that they like and will take with them to school.
Boost intake of high magnesium foods! Pumpkin seeds are one of my favorite sources, and they lend themselves so nicely to smoothies, baking, or just snacking right out of the bag. Some other delicious magnesium sources are spinach, cashews, quinoa, black beans, and sesame seeds...add a little miso dressing, and you've got a yummy dinner bowl!
Ok, so I know that was PLENTY of information to get started. But, I wanted to include a little bonus for those of you that are feeling like overachievers! Let's dive in just a little deeper and get even more specific by addressing your child's uniqueness through the Chinese medicine lens of Five Element typing. If you haven't read my blogs on ADHD, and this concept is still new to you, I highly recommend that you start here. Even if your child doesn't have attention challenges, the information will be relevant, as we talk about what the Five Elements are in Chinese medicine, and how they relate to different personality types.
We'll start with our amazing Fire child, who might just be excited to start school again! The start of the year means lots of new connections, chats about summer vacation, a new teacher to get to know - it's all likely very fun for your little firecracker to think about! If school time does present some challenges, however, here's an idea to get them ready:
Act out the first day of school! Play a game of charades or pretend to be your child's new teacher or friend to work through new situations that they may encounter on the first day. This taps into your child's expressive nature and can go a long way in making this transition feel much easier.
For our sweet Earth children, back to school may mean leaving Mom, grandma, or their super fun babysitter behind. Earth children create deep connections, and they tend to love 1:1 interactions, so the start of school may be a bit stressful if they don't have a close confidante yet. What to do to help?
Be sure to send them with a couple of sweet notes to let them know that you are thinking of them and loving them while they're at school. Put one in their backpack, one in their lunchbox, and maybe one in their picket to discover throughout the day. Knowing that you took the time to create some little love notes for them will help to ease first-day anxiety.
For your strong little Wood child, the transition back to school may be difficult - the constraints of not being able to move much in class or have access to the outdoors can be challenging and feel quite stifling - some gentle movement before school can really help!
Before and after school, if possible, allow your child some physical activity. This can be really simple and structured, such as having your child push against your hands while you push back - this kind of physical input can be very regulating for your Wood kiddo. It can also be totally unstructured, where they are allowed 5 or 10 minutes to climb stairs, run in the backyard, or jump in the kitchen.
Your little Metal child might be excited for the routine of a classroom schedule. They tend to do best with structure and timetables, and school certainly provides both of those things! If they are feeling a bit overwhelmed or stressed, however, getting them started with a clear schedule ahead of time can really help!
Clearly write out their morning and evening schedule to give them a clear sense of what to expect at home as they transition into the school year. Having a visual map of their day can be super helpful in making your little one feel organized and calm.
Our dreamy Water children may feel nervous and shy on the first day of school. They may feel more comfortable being on their own, allowed to daydream, or creating a really beautiful piece of art. Nourish your kiddo with a bath the night before the first day.
Allowing some time in the bath, maybe soaking in some Epsom salts, can provide your little one a chance to process their emotions about returning to school in a quiet place, while down regulating their nervous system before bed, allowing for a good sleep before the big day!
Wishing you smooth sailing into this upcoming school year! Stay tuned for more acupuncture and Chinese medicine-related tips to help your kiddo feeling like royalty for the school year and beyond!