The school routine is now formed, hopefully with minimal worry and tears and not too many forgotten lunches or snacks! We are busy reviewing homework, signing forms, making sure each child is where they need to be, fed and in bed at a reasonable time. Our lives are consumed with the hurry up and do it. I need to go here or there. At some point, it’s inevitable: someone will get sick and life has to slow down, at least for a few moments. This is just what happened to me the last week and a half. First it was a stomach ache and feeling wiped out and then it was a nasty cold. How fitting to be recovering from being sick and now writing about taking care of our bodies! I typically focus my writing on children, which I will do this month too, but I also feel the need to mention a few things about wellness as a family.
Does your family have healthy habits that are incorporated into your routine? Of course I have to mention the obvious; sleep, exercise and diet. Good sleep habits, being active and making healthy food choices are important habits to have as a family.
Here’s a brief review of these for kids:
1. Sleep – Sleep improves your child’s mental and physical health, and getting the right amount of sleep leads to improved attention, behavior, learning, emotional regulation, and memory. Lack of sleep can be associated with increased risk of injury, obesity, and depression.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:
Children 3 to 5 years of age should sleep 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours including naps.
Children 6 to 12 years of age should sleep 9 to 12 hours per 24 hours.
Teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep 8 to 10 hours per 24 hours.
In today’s world, screen time goes hand in hand with the topic of sleep. All of the recommendations I’ve found suggest screens should be turned off at least 30 minutes before bedtime and not kept in a child’s bedroom.
2. Exercise- There are both physical and mental health benefits from being active. Children should get at least one hour of exercise per day.
It builds stronger muscles and bones and helps maintain a healthy weight.
It increases blood flow to a developing brain.
It decreases the risk of developing health problems such as obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
Movement produces endorphins that literally change the brain’s chemical makeup.
It improves the ability to handle physical and emotional challenges.
It decreases stress.
It allows children to have a better outlook on life by building confidence, managing anxiety and depression, and increasing self-esteem and cognitive skills.
3. Food = Fuel for the body - Providing healthy food choices has many benefits for our kids. The neurons in our brain communicate through the production and reaction to neurotransmitters…aka chemicals in our brain. The nutrition we get through diet impacts our body’s ability to produce and regulate the chemicals in our brain. These are some other benefits for our kids’ bodies:
Minerals make healthy skin and strong bones and teeth.
Fiber found in vegetables, whole grains and fruit help digest food.
Vitamins help a body stay healthy and boost the immune system.
Fats in milk, meat and fish help build healthy nerves and fight off disease.
Protein builds muscles.
4. Water – Drinking enough water can be a challenge for many kids. Even with no nutrients, water is essential for kid’s overall health. It helps with digestion, helps prevent constipation and is vital for proper blood circulation and the regulation of body temperature. Even mild dehydration can impact kid’s emotions and their ability to focus. Lack of water can also cause headaches and for the body to feel sluggish. As a rule of thumb, to get enough water, your child or teen should drink at least six to eight cups of water a day. This is also dependent on your child’s age, weight, sex and physical activity throughout the day.
How do we incorporate these into our family?
Sleep - having a bedtime routine can be helpful for kids of all ages and adults. Remember to limit screen time before bed too.
Physical Activity - make it fun! Do a family fun run, play frisbee, dance, ride bikes, jump rope, play at a park, encourage them to do a sport after school, go to a yoga class or watch a yoga video online.
Food and Water - get your child to help choose some healthy recipes he/she wants to try. Planning and prepping can be a key to healthy eating.
The mind-body connection is so important to remember for kids. It is oftentimes overlooked in a child’s overall wellbeing. The physical body affects the emotional and spiritual as well. Incorporating good sleep habits, healthy food choices and physical activity can all be used to improve their body and minds. In therapy sessions, I’ve often taught this connection using a particular feeling and a drawing of an empty body. The child shows where he/she feels the feeling in the body. Fast forward a few sessions covering multiple feelings and then focusing on coping skills to deal with those emotions. Specific skills I cover include yoga and mindfulness. I’m not certified in yoga but know a handful of poses that can help at bedtime and decrease emotions built up in the body. One particular exercise I use for mindfulness is to make a mindfulness bottle with the child. The glitter and stars represent their thoughts and feelings, and when shook up, that is how they often feel under stress..all mixed up. Taking time to be mindful and breathe while the glitter falls can help lessen those feelings and give them a clear brain to think.
Providing an example for your kids and giving them the opportunity to take care of their bodies and mind can give them the path to a healthy self-esteem and strong body and mind. This can lead to great success in their future if given the tools they need.