Across the United States and the world, children will be returning to school for the new academic year over the next two weeks, if they haven’t already. As you get out of vacation mode and into the routine of a new school year, you might be thinking about how you can help your children stay happy, healthy, and active.
In today’s blog, we will explore some of the strategies you can use to help your kids establish healthy habits that will set them up for success in the classroom and beyond.
Help Them Find an Activity They Love
We all know that exercise is vitally important for good health, both for ourselves and our children. But not everyone enjoys the same activities. If your child dreads Phys Ed day or tries to avoid team sports at all costs, don’t despair. The key to keeping them active is to help them find an activity they enjoy and will look forward to doing.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box here. As well as traditional sports and activities such as running and cycling, you might also want to consider dance classes, gymnastics, swimming, water sports, snow and ice sports, or even home workout videos (there are many of these designed for young people available on YouTube.)
Let your child take the lead and, when they find something they enjoy, encourage their interests.
Exercise as a Family
You can get more activity into your kids’ lives by making physical activity something you do together as a family. This might involve going for a walk or a bike ride together at the weekend, taking part in parent-and-child swimming lessons, or throwing and kicking a ball around the park.
You’ll all benefit from the bonding experience of spending time together as well as the exercise from the activity.
Walk or Cycle to School if Possible
If you live close enough to your children’s school, consider walking or cycling to school with them instead of driving. If they’re older and usually get the bus or a ride with a friend, suggest that they walk or cycle some days instead.
A burst of exercise first thing in the morning is a fantastic way to feel more awake, energized, and ready to learn. It can aid focus and help your child to be more successful at school as well as helping them to keep their heart and lungs strong and maintain a healthy weight.
Start the Day with a Healthy Breakfast
It’s a cliche that breakfast is the most important meal of the day but, when it comes to setting your child up for a good day at school, it might just be true.
Unfortunately, many of the most common breakfast foods are loaded with sugar. These provide a quick burst of energy but this is quickly followed by a crash, leading your child to feel tired, sluggish, and less able to concentrate at school.
Swapping them out for healthier alternatives, and only allowing sugar-laden breakfasts as an occasional treat, is an easy way to help your children stay healthy and build good eating habits. Some examples of healthy breakfast foods include:
- Low-sugar cereal with milk
- Wholegrain toast
- Unsweetened yogurt
Establish a Good Sleeping Pattern
Sleep is at least as vital to good health as a varied diet and regular exercise. If your child is overly tired, they will not be able to either learn effectively or enjoy life to the fullest.
Start the new school year by practicing good sleep hygiene. This includes:
- Setting a bedtime and sticking to it each day
- Having a bedtime routine. This might include a bath or shower, a warm drink, reading a story, and brushing their teeth.
- Creating a calming and relaxing environment in their bedroom.
- Preventing the use of screens (including TV, smartphones, computers, etc.) at least an hour before bed
Your child may push back against these measures at first, but stick with it. They will soon be more rested, and happier and healthier as a result.
Look Out for Signs of Stress and Depression
Health is mental as well as physical. Keep an eye on your child’s mood and overall demeanor. If they start to seem withdrawn, unhappy, or otherwise not their usual self, it’s time to intervene and ask them what’s going on.
Loving, supportive parenting can make all the difference to a child who is struggling with their mental health. Resist the temptation to diminish their experience, tell them to “look on the bright side”, or push them to appear happier than they are feeling.
The most important thing you can do for your child is to meet them where they are and give them the love and guidance they need.