Behavioural, Children, Family, Teens

Easing the Way Back To School

Just as we settled into the rhythm of summer, it seems we are now having to pivot to the approach of fall and back-to-school.  This is a transitional time, which can be significant for families, moving from a pace that may feel more relaxed and carefree to one that requires more structure with the starts of school.

Here are five suggestions to help families adjust from summer break to back-to-school:

1. Establish Consistent Routines: Routines provide a sense of stability and predictability, which can help reduce anxiety and stress for both children and adults. Getting onto a consistent schedule can help regulate sleep patterns, which can promote a smoother transition back to school. Start working on getting to bed 1-2 hours earlier than during the summer months, every day. Work on getting up 1-2 hours earlier. Work on sleep hygiene, by encouraging screen time limits 1-2 hours prior to the desired bedtime. Sleep requires a period of relaxation and the absence of screens to help the natural sleep-inducing melatonin to rise.

2. Visit the School Ahead of Time: Along with excitement, as they will be seeing their friends after a break for the summer, for some kids, the start of school can be very stressful. New grades, new classes, new classmates and maybe a new school can trigger intense emotions.  Remind your child that the first day is often the hardest, but every day, with continued attendance, those feelings will become more manageable. Visiting school before the first day may be an effective way to help children become familiar with their surroundings (drive past the school, visit the playground, meet the teachers, or school staff or kids in the school if possible). Participate in any activities that may be offered at the school (such as a BBQ for new or returning families). If your child is school avoidant, you may wish to speak to the school staff (guidance counsellor or principal) to work on strategies to help alleviate the anxiety.

3. Create a Positive Back-to-School Tradition: Have some fun! Establishing a special tradition, like a family breakfast or lunch prep routine or placing special notes in their lunchbox, adds a positive aspect to the back-to-school experience. This creates a sense of connection and excitement, helping to ease potential apprehensions.

4. Engage in Seasonal Activities: Planning ahead for fall-themed activities, such as apple picking, pumpkin carving, or nature walks, promotes quality family time and a positive connection to the changing season. Creating enjoyable traditions can help foster positive anticipation for the season ahead.

5. Practice Self-Care as a Family:Prioritizing self-care activities like relaxation exercises, mindfulness, or outdoor adventures can enhance the family’s overall well-being. Self-care promotes stress reduction, emotional regulation, and a shared sense of rejuvenation during the transition.

Everyone has their own unique reaction to going back to school, and it’s important to provide individualized support based on their personality and needs. These strategies can help create a smoother transition and promote a positive attitude towards the upcoming school year.

We wish everyone a positive start to the new school year and hope that you all had an enjoyable summer. 

The team at Whole Heart is dedicated to helping families live better lives. To learn about our programs and services go to:

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Anxiety, Behavioural, Family

Navigating Food and Festivities this Holiday Season

The holidays are meant to be a time of enjoyment and celebration that is generally also filled with traditional and festive foods. These joyous occasions can also cause stress and anxiety when it comes to navigating relationships with food, especially if you or your teen are recovering from an eating disorder. Setting goals and creating a strong framework to approach this time of year can be the best preparation for the weeks ahead.

Whole Heart offers these tips:

Shift the focus away from a food focused holiday and redirect your attention to your loved ones. As much as there may be an emphasis on what we eat when we are together, focus instead on ensuring you connect in some meaningful way with each of your family members and friends.

Stay present and do your best to not get stuck on negative thoughts. Trying a grounding exercise by actively shifting your attention to your other senses instead. You can focus on feelings of gratitude within the moment and feel joy this holiday season by actively noticing the people and experiences for which you are grateful.

Have support from a friend, family member or healthcare provider with whom you can check-in to help you navigate difficult situations. Knowing there is someone to support you can be a very powerful reassurance as you embark on the holidays.

Set boundaries by discussing your holiday expectations with those who you may be spending time. If friends or family know that you are recovering or may be struggling, talk to them about your concerns and identify strategies that they can help support through their actions.

Decrease body and diet talk by practicing ways to redirect the conversation and if need be, simply saying “I don’t want to talk about this.” and changing the subject. Aim to give others compliments that are not related to appearance to inspire them to do the same.

Keep your concentration on your plate, limiting comparisons. Everyone has different needs, and it is important to honour what works best for you and your recovery.

When it comes to food there are no good foods or bad foods, especially during the holidays. Remember that nourishing your body is the ultimate form of self-care and giving yourself permission to enjoy your favourite festive foods without fear is part of that. Mindful eating – taking your time and involving all your senses – can be helpful as well.

Try to be flexible when possible and allow for changes. While you may be following a particular plan, give yourself the flexibility to allow for unexpected changes. This will help you move through challenging situations.

Try not to over commit. There can be so many people to see and places to be. Choose the events that you feel most comfortable attending. Try to plan for these events by asking a friend for support or giving yourself an exit strategy if things become overwhelming. This is a time for relaxation and renewal, so ensure you are attending events that help you fulfill those needs and allow yourself to decline those that won’t.

The team at Whole Heart wishes you and yours the very best this holiday season. For support navigating dietary needs, contact Whole Heart’s Registered Nutrition Consultant Practitioner.


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