School is out! Now what? I think we all enjoy a break from the routine of getting ready for school, preparing breakfasts and lunches, homework and after school activities. However, did you ever stop to think that routines may actually benefit us in many ways? This is especially true for kids dealing with mental health issues such as ADHD, anxiety and depression.
John Duffy, a clinical psychiatrist, states that mental issues can be more noticeable in the summer: “Anxiety issues can also come to the surface. We often find that anxiety-based issues become apparent due in part to the lack of structure, though most young people claim this is the time of year they most look forward to, many become listless and irritable because of a lack of structured activity.”
Much is still being learned about mental health-related issues in children. I believe it is multi-factorial. Poor nutrition, stress, problems at school and relationship difficulties can all influence behaviour. Therefore, the approach to healing should be holistic, meaning you need to acknowledge all aspects of a child – physical, emotional and spiritual. Here are some of the ways I recommend supporting these elements during the summer.
1. Create a Summer Schedule
Although a break from routine is nice, structure is important for children during the summer months. This could be a summer job (walking a neighbour’s dog or mowing the lawn), a camp, club or volunteer activity. We have an amazing community that provides lots of summer activities and fun for children, and I’m sure yours does as well. Check out the local libraries, museums, The Humane Society or gyms (such as the YMCA).
William Oswald, a behaviour specialist, says, “When people have a purpose, their minds stay occupied, and boredom is not as prevalent of an issue. When they go from being extremely busy to having nothing to do, often times this boredom results in mild, or in some cases severe, forms of depression.”
2. Get Fresh Air and Exercise
I can’t say enough can’t about the importance of the outdoors, fresh air and exercise! We were meant to move and be active. We have moved towards a sedentary lifestyle and are definitely feeling the effects of this choice by increasing rates of obesity, mental health issues and inflammatory conditions. Only 7% of children ages 5-11 and only 4% of 12-17-year-olds are meeting the suggested guidelines for physical activity.
Ride bikes, explore nature on hiking trails, play soccer in your backyard, climb a tree, and more (ever tried geocaching)? Really, the choices are only limited by your imagination. Get out every day, enjoy the summer and gather some much needed Vitamin D while you are at it.
3. Feed Your Children Nutritious Food
Excess amounts of refined sugar, lack of fibre and lack of nutrient intake lead to problems, including insulin resistance. It is important to start your child’s day off with a protein-rich meal combined with complex carbohydrates and healthy fats to help balance blood sugar and provide sustained energy. Sugary cereals don’t cut it. This will create an energy burst, quickly followed by fatigue, restlessness, irritability and sometimes nausea or a headache.
The summertime offers us an abundance of fresh food, so take advantage of the bounty while it’s here! Take your children to the farmers markets and let them choose new foods to try or go berry picking for a fun and delicious activity.
An easy and nutrient dense breakfast I often give my kids is homemade granola with the fat from coconut milk (with a yogurt like consistency) and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup on top. You can also add fresh, seasonal fruit. Yum!
Cheers to great health and a fun-filled summer.
Serves: 12-20 servings
- 3 cups gluten-free oats
- 1 cup flaxseeds, ground
- ½ cup hemp hearts
- ⅓ cup sesame seeds
- ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
- ¼ cup sunflower seeds
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ cup coconut oil, melted
- 2 Tbsp cacao butter, melted
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 cups raisins (or 1 cup raisins and 1 cup goji berries)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Mix all dry ingredients (except raisins/goji berries) together.
- Add coconut oil and cacao butter to a pan and heat until just melted.
- Remove from heat and add maple syrup and vanilla.
- Pour over dry ingredients and mix. Spread onto prepared baking sheet.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes.
- Remove from oven, add raisins/goji berries and mix.
- Cool, then store in an airtight container in fridge.