Amid the health concerns created by COVID-19, it’s essential to pay attention to keeping yourself and your family healthy, especially as children begin to return to school. While a healthy lifestyle is no replacement for public health measures like wearing a mask when you leave the house, avoiding gatherings with people outside your household, and washing your hands frequently, you can support healthy immune function by taking good care of yourself.
Read on for five tips that will help you keep everyone—including you—committed to a healthy routine, no matter what back-to-school looks like for you.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
There’s no way to live a healthy lifestyle without eating natural, wholesome foods, but that’s easier said than done with children. Many schools schedule lunch breaks as early as 11 A.M., knocking your children’s mealtime routine out of step with the rest of the family. If this sounds like a familiar problem, start planning a menu of nutritious snacks now so you can offer an alternative when you take sugary, salty foods out of rotation.
Parents of picky eaters know their children’s palates best, but popular ideas for appealing yet healthy snacks include raw vegetables with a dipping sauce like hummus or peanut butter, homemade granola bars, or even air-popped popcorn.
Meanwhile, if you’re one of the many parents who worry more about their children’s diets than their own, adding supplements to your diet can help you reach your fitness goals without spending the hours between snack time and dinnertime on cooking complicated healthy meals that your children don’t want to eat. Not sure where to start? Try a well-rounded natural supplement; for instance, Gundry MD Metabolic Advanced claims to support energy levels, mood, sleep, and weight loss in ultra-convenient capsule form.
Support Consistent Sleep Routines
Children aren’t the only ones who have trouble winding down at the end of the day. Endemic stress means that more people than ever have trouble falling or staying asleep, and several studies have demonstrated that parental sleep problems are correlated with sleep disruption in children. Fortunately, adults and children both benefit from forming the same good habits.
Everyone in your household should have a consistent bedtime, even if the exact time varies depending on age and temperament, as well as a calm, dark, and quiet room for sleep. Encourage some screen-free time in the two hours before bed, and help children engage in pleasant, relaxing activities to help them wind down. Even though they’re young, it’s likely that they’re stressed, too!
Has summertime devolved into bedtime anarchy? You can fix sleep schedules that have drifted nocturnal during the past few months by working backwards to the time your child needs to get up for school. Over the course of about two weeks, move your child’s wake-up time and bedtime slightly earlier each day to traverse the distance between their current and required bedtimes. Even if class is online, make sure they stick with those schedules to maintain healthy sleep habits.
Encourage Spending Time Outside
Among the rare bright spots in COVID-19 research is the consensus that while the virus spreads readily indoors, outdoor activities are often safe due to the ease of maintaining distance from people outside your household and natural ventilation. Not every outdoor activity is equally safe, or even recommended, but spending time in the backyard with other household members or going for walks and bike rides are great options.
In addition to promoting physical activity, being outdoors improves mood and concentration for both children and adults. Some schools are even opting to bring classrooms outside so that children can be together in an environment that’s likely safer than traditional classrooms, but if you’re sticking with remote learning for the foreseeable future, try bringing classwork outside or incorporating the natural world into lessons. If you can, bring your exercise routine outdoors so you can supervise your children from downward-facing dog.
Schedule Time Without Screens
Everyone is spending more time behind a screen these days. Parents are often working from home, watching their children participate in remote classrooms, and when school and work are over, attention turns to social media, TV, games, and good-old-fashioned mindless browsing. Not only is this bad for your eyes at any age, it also has negative effects on mental health. Like sleep, children will take their cues from you here; if you unwind by scrolling through your phone, and you regularly allow emails and texts to disrupt family events, you’ll struggle to impress the importance of digital downtime on everyone else.
While not all screen usage is created equally, and reading, studying, or watching a quality show together are all positive uses of technology, not everything in life can be experienced in a digital format. Child development researchers have discovered that monitoring screen time can improve sleep, social behavior, and grades. Set the tone by involving children in screen-free activities you can do together. You can play board games and put together puzzles; paint, draw, sew, or sculpt; invite them to take on age-appropriate tasks in the kitchen or garden; or build a junior chemistry lab or robotics department. You may even find that you don’t miss the Internet as much as you thought you would.
Plan Ahead To Prevent Stressful Days
Most advice for building a healthy routine includes finding a way to de-stress, but what if you could stop stress before it starts? Advance planning before bed can take the chaos out of your mornings. Begin by thinking about the problems you repeatedly encounter while everyone is trying to get ready for work or school; somehow, even though many households are no longer commuting or packing lunches, textbooks and assignments are still mislaid and work outfits are never quite Zoom-ready.
To keep mornings moving, have everyone set out clothes and important items the night before, even if that just means putting school supplies and clothes next to their laptops—it’ll keep them from asking you to interrupt your own work to hunt down their stuff. If your children are too young to finish getting ready without supervision, wake up before they do and make sure you’re ready first.
Finally, no one should be whiling away precious time on their phone or tablet; even some adults have a hard time breaking away from screens in the morning, so make sure that children, who have less impulse control, aren’t getting distracted from breakfast and hygiene by games or television. Once they’re done with all their responsibilities, a little screen time is fine as long as it doesn’t bleed into the start of the school day.
Keeping up with a healthy lifestyle while you’re living through a pandemic is a tall order, but as children go back to school, it’s more essential than ever to support your family’s health and your own with the power of a routine that nourishes the body and mind.
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