Dr Mark Rosenthal

MD MB ChB FRCP FRCPCH BSc

Consultant in Paediatric Respiratory Medicine

also specialist in Food Allergies & Disorders of Sleep

A | A | A

T: 0207 351 8832

E: s.harvey@rbht.nhs.uk

A:The Royal Brompton Hospital, London, SW3 6NP

It’s important that everyone feels empowered to look after themselves, and it is vital that children also feel they have the tools to do this, especially in regards to their routine, what they eat and staying active.

Engaging Kids with their Health At this critical time when the population has been advised to stay indoors except for necessary trips, and whilst both schools and universities have closed for at least the next few months, young people have been cut off from many of their friends, their normal rhythm has been disrupted and the different environments they would usually visit in a week greatly reduced. As a result, it’s important that within the home children are still able to do the things that they love, connect with others and do a diverse range of activities.

Looking after your kids’ physical health

There are a number of different ways to engage kids in exercise and physical activity, even if it is just around the home. For example, you could:

  • Set up daily challenges and missions for them to do, such as completing tasks around the home, helping with the cleaning, DIY, gardening and other organisational tasks
  • Design a calendar of activities or exercises they could do from home (inventive home PE lessons), including things like star jumps, running on the spot with high knees, sit ups and using items such as water bottles or cans as makeshift weights for fun
  • Choose a theme each week, e.g. the Olympics or Great British Bake-off and get your kids to do some cooking, or challenge their siblings to compete in the home Olympics

Looking after your kids’ mental health

Kids tend to enjoy being more active and engaged throughout the day, so inevitably by doing regular physical activity this will benefit their mental wellbeing too.

Checking in each day to see how they are feeling, recommending they keep a diary or draw pictures and do creative tasks also encourages kids to express themselves.

Although the Internet is a great convenience and useful tool for education, to stay in touch with others and countless other activities, it can be used irresponsibly. Heavy social media use and excessive video gaming has been associated with mental health impairment among children and adolescents, where kids could feel pressured to be/look a particular way, be exposed to violence, or simply become engrossed in the virtual world and eventually feel somewhat disconnected from themselves, their family or friends in real time.

During the period where families are advised to stay at home until the coronavirus outbreak settles down, it is worth asking kids how they would like to stay in touch with their friends. Being creative and suggesting ideas such as speaking on the phone or arranging video calls may support your child to still feel connected to their friends, even though they may not see them for a number of months. This may also support them to redevelop a routine.

Education in isolation

Although schools around the country have provided homework assignments for children to complete during this time, it can still be fun to go over exciting topics at home if you find yourself with more time at home as a family. Ideas of subjects could be the solar system, teaching kids to point out stars such as Orion’s belt at night, the human body or insects in the garden.

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