Back to School Tips for Parents and Teens

Author: Associate RD – Maddie Mclean, RD, CDCES (formerly Maddie White)

Back to school time can come with a lot of emotions – excitement, anxiety, nervousness, or maybe even apathy. Regardless of how you’re feeling as a teen returning to school or parent sending their child in the new year, transitions are tough. Here are a few things to consider when establishing your new routine:

1. Scheduling

School isn’t the only thing that starts this time of year – sports, clubs, social activities, and extracurriculars are all ramping up as well and it can be tempting to do it all. Kids want to be as involved as their friends and high schoolers may be thinking of college applications, but keep in mind that too many extracurricular activities can leave you with a jam-packed schedule and no time to rest or relax. Keeping your schedule open to free time is important for growth and development as well, so establish a number of  activities that works for your family, ensuring you have a couple of weekdays open for family time, homework catch-up, passion projects, or simply just relaxing. 

2. Sleep

Changes in sleep routine can be one of the biggest adjustments parents and teens may have to make. Creating and protecting that sleep window makes a huge difference in one’s ability to focus, tolerate difficult emotions, regulate important hormones, and attune to the body’s needs. Forming a wind down routine that’s specific to your/your family’s preferences can be the most helpful (and even enjoyable) way to get the body ready for sleep. Some examples include: setting an electronics cut-off time, reading a book for X number of minutes, turning on an essential oil diffuser, taking a short bath or shower, creating a winddown playlist, laying out tomorrow’s outfit, or journaling/reflecting on the day. 

3. Water

Chances are, you/your child had a lot more accessibility to water over the summer due to being home more or in activities that encouraged frequent water breaks. Classrooms and indoor schools are often air conditioned (and sometimes too cold!) making it really easy to forget to hydrate throughout the day. Without sufficient hydration we can feel fatigued and unfocused. If possible, pack an age-appropriate water bottle for yourself or your child with a goal to finish it by the end of the school day. If your child isn’t a huge fan of water, flavor it with fruit or a bit of juice to make it more enjoyable. 

4. Meals and Snacks

Like with water, meals and snacks can be easier to access at home or in a camp that schedules consistent breaks. Most kids and teens need to fuel with food every 2-3 hours, so be sure there is an adequate amount of food for snacks and meals. Oftentimes, the lunch break can be hijacked by recess or social time with friends, so don’t be surprised if your child’s biggest meal is actually their after-school “snack.” The beginning of the year is especially full of excitement and distraction, over time your child will learn to attune to and regulate their hunger cues and is likely to eat more of what you pack for them. Try not to worry if this doesn’t happen right away. Children’s intake evens out over the course of multiple days rather than meal to meal. Of course, should you be worried about your child’s intake you can reach out for support. We’re here to help! , as long as we’re fostering our children’s ability to attune to their body’s needs, they will meet their nutritional requirements.

5. Body Image and Peer Pressure

Even though social media makes it easy for kids and teens to maintain connected to their peers over long breaks, the return to school can still increase negative body image and peer pressure to look a certain way, have the right clothes and accessories, and/or alter one’s body. Try to keep your home a safe place for all bodies, free from diet and food talk and accepting of what everyone looks like. Praise your child for their hard work on a project or audition for the school play rather than what their outfit, hair, or body looks like. Many older children and teens will experience body changes from one year to the next – remember that these changes are normal! If you feel you or your child is having an especially hard time with this or you notice disordered patterns, it may be time to reach out for professional help. 

We hope these back to school tips can help you and your family adjust to the transition of a new year that is sure to come with both exciting changes as well as challenges. The Nutrition Instincts Team is passionate about supporting parents and teens in all areas food and body-related. Check out the Get Started page to learn more about how we can serve you in these areas. 

Photo of Maddie White, RD, dietitian at Nutrition Instincts San Diego Nutrition Therapy

Maddie McLean, RD (formerly Maddie White), dietitian at Nutrition Instincts San Diego Nutrition Therapy

MADDIE MCLEAN (formerly Maddie White), an eating disorder and diabetes care provider at Nutrition Instincts is passionate about helping others restore their relationships with food, body, and mind. Maddie is a Certified Diabetes Care & Education Specialist with experience in medical nutrition therapy. Maddie believes intuitive eating holds space for everyone and every body. By taking an individual approach with each client, Maddie walks alongside her clients as they learn the best way to navigate your journey to food and body freedom.   Interested in working with Maddie? CONTACT US TO SCHEDULE TODAY!