Times of change can cause anxious feelings in all of us. A new year at school is no exception, whether it’s a first year of primary or high school or not. I distinctly remember feeling very nervous in anticipation of each new school year.
There are three main areas I find aromatherapy can help children (and their parents) during this transition and throughout the year.
- Reduce stress and anxiety whilst adapting to new things
- Improve sleep routine and patterns
- Enhance the study environment
So how would essential oils help? Simply inhaling an essential oil can have an instant and powerful effect on our mind and bodies. Essential oil vapours enter the nose where we have olfactory (smell) receptors, which transmit information to various parts of the brain. This can produce an effect on our emotions, behaviour and hormonal activity. Our brain also identifies smells we know; producing a positive or negative effect on a person dependent on the particular memory evoked.
For safety advice with young children and dilutions you may want to check out my blog Safe Aromatherapy for Babies & Children.
Calm and confident
Several studies have shown essential oils such as lavender and sweet orange can reduce anxiety in children in relation to dental procedures, hospitalisation, diabetes and exam stress. I have seen time and again the positive change in children when using aromatherapy to help alleviate anxiety, worry and insecurity.
Years ago, in my daughter’s school assembly, children read out poems they had written about their mothers. I noted 6 out 7 children related the smell of their mum, their home or mum’s cooking to comfort. Experiencing an aroma in conjunction with a person, place or activity can create an “aromatic anchor”. Anchoring involves associating an emotional or physical state to an outside sensation; in this case the sense of smell.
It can be useful for the child to use a certain essential oil or blend in the comfort and security of home, perhaps in conjunction with a cuddle or massage from a parent. Then they “take” that same aroma with them to school or kinder to help provide those same feelings of comfort and security throughout the day. They may like an aroma inhaler, roll-on or simply a drop of essential oil on a tissue tucked in their pocket or clothing.
It fills my heart to hear parents say “he won’t go to school without his inhaler/oils” or “she said she would be ok on camp if she has her special roll-on at night”.
There are certainly some “go to” essential oils for anxiety although, as always, aromatherapy is very individual. For younger children I recommend Lavender, Mandarin, Sweet Orange and Roman Chamomile. Mother Nurture’s Calm Kids blend is very popular, for both kids and adults.
For older children you can add in some balancing oils such as Geranium, Bergamot, Fragonia or grounding oils such as Sandalwood or Cedarwood. Or try Mother Nurture’s Harmony blend.
Oh, how elusive is a good night’s sleep when you’re a parent?! If your child is not settling it can disrupt the whole household. If we could all sleep better our world would run more smoothly! But more on that another time.
How to assist a child to sleep? There’s certainly plenty of advice out there to explore. Aromatherapy can be a great option to include in a child’s bedtime routine. Create an aromatic environment that signals it’s time for bed. Use essential oils in the bath (safely diluted), in a diffuser whilst reading a bedtime story, on a tissue tucked under the pillow or for older children in a roll-on they can apply themselves. As kids get older, they love to make choices and be more independent.
Calming essential oils as mentioned above have been shown to help enhance restful sleep. You could also add in frankincense, sweet marjoram and vetiver. Once again Mother Nurture’s Calm Kids is very popular at bedtime. Or try Mother Nurture’s Calm or Serenity blend for older children and teenagers.
Certain essential oils can help transition to study time, enhancing focus and clarity. I love using aromas to get my brain into gear (in fact, I am right now as I try to write this article 😊)
Rosemary is known to have a stimulating effect and enhance memory, which is why it has become known as the symbol of remembrance. Other essential oils that enhance focus and creativity are lemon, sweet basil, peppermint and eucalyptus. A Japanese study showed increased efficiency and reduction of typing errors by 54% in keypunch operators when lemon essential oil was vaporised into the air. Mother Nurture’s Study or Clarity essential oil blends are also great options.
Essential oils can be used in a diffuser, aroma inhaler or on a tissue placed on the desk. It can be beneficial to use the oil whilst studying and then tuck a scented tissue into your clothes (or use an inhaler) on exam day to enhance concentration and help recall information. This method has been tried and tested by many, including myself!
Hint: these stimulating and uplifting essential oils and blends are also useful for getting teenagers going in the morning!
On the flipside, it’s important to be aware that if your child is feeling overwhelmed and anxious about an exam or schoolwork, it may be best to first look at calming options. A racing mind will not be able to focus and retain information.
Children respond so well to aromatherapy and love the experience of choosing their own special blend to “help the butterflies go away” or “give them sweet dreams”. A consultation with a qualified aromatherapist such as myself will enable the creation of personalised blends and treatments specific to their needs.
Aromatic support can be just as beneficial for parents, as for the children in their care. It’s a massive tug at the heart strings watching your child enter the school or kinder environment for the first time; especially if they’re not happy and settling in. So, remember to look after you too! 🙂