With our country at somewhat of a standstill due to the current pandemic, it’s easy to get into a routine that is more laid back. Anything from going to bed late to increased screen time, habits may start leaning on the unhealthy side. And one of the major behaviors that appear when we are in a stressful situation is that we reach for comfort food. While it may seem as though the current situation will only last for a short time, the long-term effects of our eating habits can have an impact on children’s physical, intellectual, emotional, and social development. Therefore, it’s essential that parents maintain a healthy lifestyle for their family.
In today’s pandemic, it’s even more important for children to consume food that is nourishing to the body. Keeping immune systems strong is vital, especially in the face of our daily health threat. But not only does proper nutrition increase immunity but it is vital for proper physical growth and development in children. Since children’s physical development happens very quickly, utilizing nutritious foods that will help them maintain a healthy weight, stabilize their energy levels, and prevent short term illnesses is necessary.
Although schools are closed, intellectual development doesn’t stop. Children are still attending school and must meet educational requirements so parents should make sure children consume “brain foods” that will help boost learning and problem solving. Maintaining healthy eating habits during this time will help keep the brain in “grow mode” which ultimately supports children in learning new things. A nutrient rich diet is linked to changes in a brain protein that helps make proper connections between brain cells. This is especially important now, when learning is more self-reliant.
While everyone is required to stay at home, emotions can run high. In addition to that, children are still developing emotionally, so the ability for them to mange their behaviors may be more of a challenge. Much of children’s mood swings can be contributed to developmental changes and the stress of the current situation but knowing that certain foods can trigger chemical and physiological changes in the brain is vital. In order to help keep moods more stable and help children develop a healthy relationship with food, parents should encourage children to make healthy choices, in the face of stress, so that these habits will stick with them.
Until recently, family mealtime seemed like a thing of the past. The “on the go” eating plan became the number one way to save time between activities but by doing this, families no longer had time to reconnect after a busy day. However now, we have the time to do this. By taking advantage of these moments, parents can help children develop in a socially healthy way. This time allows parents and children to communicate, for parents to help build better self-esteem in their children, and for children to learn healthy eating habits and table manners. Children can then apply these behaviors when they begin attending other social events again.
With the feeling of uncertainty in our world today, things may feel out of our control. And while we don’t have power over a lot of things, we can influence how our children develop physically, intellectually, emotionally, and socially. Small healthy changes, each day, will create constructive shifts. And, using the time we have in a productive way and teaching our children how to handle stress in a positive manner will have lasting benefits.