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Keep your kids healthy this long school break

It’s yet another long holiday break for public schools. There’s usually some parental anxiety with prolonged school breaks. You see, kids must still be taken care of, and this must be coupled with parental occupational commitments. Leaving your kids to their own devices, whilst preoccupied with your own chores, may expose them to unwanted and unhealthy behavior. But with a bit of creativity, you can still be in good control of your kids’ health during their long school holidays.

Children deserve a good break from school. This serves as an opportunity for them to relax, and engage in other non-academic activities that are part of their development. But they can also easily slip into unhealthy behavior during the prolonged holidays. The bigger kids may use this time to experiment with alcohol, drugs and unprotected sex, among other unhealthy habits.

Whatever holiday plans you come up with for your kids, healthy activities must be part of the game. Start by reviewing their health status, and work out what needs to be improved, or just maintained. Sit them down and come up with a health plan together, this will give them a sense of ownership and responsibility of whatever initiatives you suggest. Then set some deadlines for the health goals, and create some reward points along the way.

Promote and encourage healthy eating. It’s so easy for kids to end up with junk food every day of the week. Allow the occasional indulgence, but moderate this with intervals of real fresh and healthy foods. We are talking of whole-meal foods, greens and vegetables, non-processed white meats, and grains. Get the kids to participate in preparing and cooking the fresh foods. This will inculcate lifelong good cooking habits. Encourage them to drink lots of water and freshly squeezed fruit juices. Keep them away from sugary fizzy drinks and alcohol. This will reduce their risks of metabolic diseases in the long run.

Ensure most of their day is spent outdoors. You are not breeding couch potatoes, whose only activities are flipping through TV entertainment channels and playing computer games. Their muscles, bones, cardiac and respiratory systems need some physical challenges for optimal function. You don’t need expensive club memberships. The backyard will do, or a nearby park or public place. Or get them into the countryside where open grounds are plenty, and there’s lots to do without trying too hard.

If your kids are creeping towards puberty, have a candid chat with them about transiting into adulthood. But resist being unnecessarily restrictive, they need to experiment and understand their evolving biological changes. Finally, check if they are due for any vaccines, like the HPV vaccine for teens. If necessary, get them a medical check-up just before schools reopen. Their school performance is reliant on them being in optimal health.

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