That time of year is looking a little different this year with the pandemic that is happening in the world, however back to school always brings some form of change in habits and adjustment for kids as well as parents.
Though back to school can be a time of reunion for many, it can also bring about stress with the start of a new academic year. Setting your children up for success not just academically but mentally, emotionally, and physically will help them adjust and transition much easier.
With the added stress of keeping your children safe and healthy, it's more important now than ever to implement healthy habits that support your children's resiliency and wellbeing.
As a parent, it's important to set the example by also displaying healthy habits which will make it easier for your kids to follow suit and do the same.
Here are some top tips to support your kids transition back into the classroom while keeping them as healthy as possible.
Start your day with a healthy breakfast
The recipe for a good day starts with a good breakfast!
Having a hearty nutritious breakfast will help to provide your kids with sustained energy but also help them focus in class. Instead of the refined children's cereals that are full of sugar opt for complex carbohydrates like a bowl of warm oatmeal or fruit, alongside a protein source such as eggs, and healthy fats like nuts or seeds.
Check out some quick and healthy breakfast ideas for back to school.
Practice good hygiene
Though obvious, washing your hands regularly and thoroughly will help to keep germs at bay and prevent the spread of illness. This is especially important before mealtimes.
Teaching your kids how to practice good hygiene by washing their hands properly and avoiding touching their face will help to keep them healthy and prevent the spread of germs.
A good rule of thumb is to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, before handling any food and after using the washroom. Though during these current circumstances it is recommended to wash hands more frequently.
As an essential nutrient, making up about 60% of our body weight, water is key for optimal body functions and staying healthy.
Fruit juice concentrates and sodas contain added sugars as well as artificial sweeteners and ingredients therefore it's best to skip these altogether.
If you find your kids resist water try spicing it up by adding fresh or frozen fruit, a splash of juice, bubbles, or herbs such as mint. You can also buy your child their own water bottle (always choose BPA free or stainless steel) to encourage them to regularly drink throughout the day.
Prepare healthy meals & snacks
It's not always easy to control what your kids are eating at school, however the best way to ensure they are receiving a nutritious meal is to pack your child a healthy lunch.
This will provide them with healthy nutrients and calories for optimal growth and development during these critical years. Opting for whole foods will not only help your kids grow accustomed to healthy eating but also make them less likely to choose unhealthy choices like sweets and candies.
A healthy diet is the foundation for keeping your children strong and healthy and developing a resilient immune system.
Including protein at meals and snacks will ensure your kids are fully focused and energized for the day's activities. This can include quality animal products as well as plant-based proteins such as beans and legumes, nuts (if tolerated and permitted) and seeds.
Some healthy lunch ideas for kids include sandwiches, wraps, veggie burgers, pasta salads, quesadilla, and quinoa salad.
Got picky eaters? Grab our top tips here.
Create a bedtime routine
Sleep is the time for repair, regeneration, and growth!
Kids will need more sleep than adults as they go through their growth and development years. Sufficient sleep will also set them up for success the next day by increasing energy, focus, mood, and even immune function.
Sleep deprivation has been linked to obesity, mood disorders, cravings, hyperactivity, and diabetes (1)(2).
Today, technology is the single biggest obstacle to a good night's sleep therefore we recommend instilling some sort of bedtime routine away from screens. This could look like reading, coloring, writing, or simply spending time together.
Keep electronics out of the bedroom and create a calm environment for your child to nod off easily.
Setting a regular sleep and wake up time, even on weekends, will also help your child achieve better sleep.
Having a bedtime routine can make bedtime trouble-free for everyone by making it easier for your kids to fall asleep and stay asleep, a benefit for everyone!
Reduce screen time
The increased use of electronics among children and teens not only affects sleep patterns.
Increased screen time has also been associated with decreased social skills, obesity, and behavioral problems (3)(4).
What can you do instead? Get your kids involved in screen-less activities on a daily basis. This could include outdoor activities, sports, cooking, baking, arts and crafts, reading, going to the park, visiting a museum, and board games.
Limit electronics to certain hours during the day and actively participate by sharing screen time with your children in order to establish connection and engagement with what is being consumed. We also recommend keeping all electronics outside of the bedroom to reduce any temptation.
Early exposure to electronics increases the likelihood of overuse and dependency later on in life. The more habituated your kids are to participating in activities that do not involve electronics the less inclined they will be to use them.
Find ways to get moving
As humans, we are not meant to be sedentary, and this goes for children as well!
Physical activity is essential for proper growth and development in children but also physical and mental health.
Regular exercise in children has been associated with a healthy weight, bone and muscle strength, increased flexibility, improved cardiovascular health, increased mood and cognitive function, and a reduced risk for chronic diseases (5).
Inactivity in children represents a higher risk for conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease (6).
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 60 minutes of daily physical activity in children and youth (7).
With the rise of electronics, it has become somewhat of a challenge for many families to get their kids moving and engaged in regular physical activity.
Some ways to encourage exercise include signing up for extracurricular activities such as sports, choosing movement such as biking or walking over bus or car rides, playing with your kids in the garden or at the park or even in your home, and setting a good example by engaging in exercise every day as parents.
If you can implement exercise outdoors and as part of a group you increase the benefits received by establishing a connection with nature and with others.
Choosing activities that are fun and enjoyable and increase bonding between individuals will help to keep your kids engaged and more likely to stick to regular exercise well into adulthood and beyond.
Schedule regular mealtimes together
Mealtimes can be rather hectic nowadays as we sit in front of the TV or computer eating our meals and forgetting to take the time to notice and appreciate our food.
but did you know how you eat your meals is just as important as what you eat?
When we eat in front of electronics and disconnected from our food, we tend to overeat and create a lot of strain on our digestive system. This can result in excess calories, digestive upset, and feeling unsatisfied which can lead to cravings.
In addition, when we eat too fast we can lose touch with our own hunger cues and reach adulthood without ever understanding how to listen to our bodies. This can also increase the likelihood of developing disordered eating later in life.
Meal hygiene is a habit that should be introduced early on. Scheduling regular meal times as a family can not only improve meal hygiene but also your children's social and communication skills and bonding within the family.
Get your children participating in mealtimes by asking them to help set the table together, and involving them in the planning and preparation of the meal. This will also increase the likelihood of actually eating the food set in front of them and making healthier choices. Encourage your children to try different foods in a variety of ways but also respect their choice when they say no to something, and just try again another time.
Remember, as adults, we set the example for our children so it's up to us to demonstrate the behavior we would like our children to adopt!
About the Author
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women's hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence's mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.