Heather earned her MS in Health Sciences at The University of Memphis, is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach, and currently works at Hutchison School teaching wellness and training athletic teams.She loves Friday pizza & movie night with her husband and kids, the Smoky Mountains, and yoga. She hates body shaming. And she will be joining us monthly to talk about wellness for six months!
There’s a Chinese Proverb that I love, and it goes like this:
“That the birds of worry and care fly over your head, this you cannot change, but that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.”
As my motherhood tenure has increased, I have tried to find ways to worry less about things pertaining to my kids. I figure, less nests in my hair is a good thing.
You’ll hear no fretting from me about mis-matched outfits, not making the school basketball team, or a C on a report card. The dwindling time I have with my high school son living under my roof… now that, I lose sleep over.
What about my kids getting sick during the winter months? For this, I pay extra attention to wellness at home to help my family stay healthy and lessen my worry.
When principles of wellness are routinely practiced, not only does it benefit our immune systems and make it tougher for viruses to have the upper hand, but when illness does strike, it’s shorter-lived. Over the years, I’ve closely observed my family’s health and illness patterns, yielding a proactive and effective approach to battling the winter cruds by ramping up our adherence to the fundamentals of healthy living. While there is no fool-proof way to completely avoid ever getting sick, I have found that these aspects of wellness help us stay healthy.
Here’s what I pay special attention to this time of year. Give these a try and see if they help your family enjoy less sick time, too!
Warning: you are going to get really tired of hearing me rant about sleep. Sorry not sorry. I believe it’s the most important part of wellness that must be practiced to avoid illness. During sleep is when our bodies produce certain proteins and immune cells that essentially clean house, ridding our bodies of viruses, bacteria, and even cancer cells and the beginning of heart disease.
We think of summer as a time when our kids are generally healthier, and we enjoy fewer sore throats and fevers. Have you ever stopped to think of why that may be? It could be that kids aren’t in as close quarters during the summer as when they are sitting in a classroom at school. I’ve heard that viruses thrive in colder temperatures. Maybe forgetting to sneeze down our shirts and, instead, sneezing into our hands is the culprit. All of those certainly play a part, but also consider this:
My kids’ summer sleep schedule
Jack (14): In bed around 11/11:30pm, wakes up around 10:30/11am = 11-12 hours.
Caroline (12): In bed around 10/10:30pm, wakes up around 9/9:30am = 11 hours.
Julianna (8): In bed around 9/9:30pm, wakes up around 8/8:30am = 11 hours.
My kids’ school year sleep schedule (Monday through Friday)
Jack: In bed (if we’re lucky) around 10:30pm, wakes up at 6:30am = 8 hours.
Caroline: In bed (if we’re lucky) around 9:30am, wakes up at 6:30am = 9 hours.
Julianna: In bed at 8:30pm, wakes up at 6:30am = 10 hours.
Look at the difference! In one week (M-F), collectively, my kids get 30 (YES, THIRTY!) LESS hours of sleep per week during the school year than in the summer, and that’s on a good week! And these are kids of a mom who’s a crazy person about sleep! I can’t imagine what would happen if they got less.
Wait. Yes, I can. They would get sick.
Make sleep a top priority—up there with eating dinner and completing homework. Take phones away at least an hour before bedtime and keep TVs and other screens out of your kids’ bedrooms. If they don’t get enough sleep, they are going to get sick. It’s that simple. They need 9-10 hours per night, and encourage them to sleep in on the weekends.
2. Vitamin and Nutrients
“Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food.”
Especially around the holiday season, we tend to eat nutrient-skimpy, processed foods with reckless abandon. These “foods”, often containing sky-high amounts of sugar, suppress your body’s immune cells’ ability to do their job while ghosting on important vitamins that fight illness like C, E, and B6. This is a double whammy for the immune system.
I’m not trying to be a killjoy, nor am I suggesting that you snatch the cookie from your kid’s hand at a holiday party, but I am saying that if you want to avoid lots of make-up work from missing school, don’t let the holidays be a justification for going crazy on the sugar. Save the cupcakes for parties and social gatherings, and don’t keep desserts and candy in the house. Trust me—your kids will still get more than their share of treats during this time of year! You’re not depriving them; you are helping them stay healthy and also teaching them moderation and how to have a healthy, appropriate relationship with sweets.
Load up on these immune-boosting foods in your meals at home:
- Citrus fruits
- Broccoli, bell peppers, kale
- Spinach—get as much green as you can!
Don't let the holiday rush get in the way of cooking healthy meals with your kids. Here are 3 simple, nutritious meals that will help keep your family healthy this month.
Yes, I know it’s cold. Yes, I know the days are short. Yes, I know it’s a busy time of year. Yes, I know your kids would rather be looking at a screen. Mine would, too. Frankly, some days, so would I.
But exercise is the wonder non-drug. In addition to so many chronic diseases that exercise helps prevent, it also boosts the immune system. Not only that, but exercise decreases stress and improves sleep; both of which play a major role in our body’s ability to protect us against illness.
We also know that our immune systems cannot function optimally without enough vitamin D. So double dip and nudge the kiddos outside and into the sunshine to get the vitamin D that they may lack in the winter months.
Here’s the best news of all—it doesn’t need to be fancy or take much time for the benefits of outdoor exercise to kick in. What fits the bill? 20 minutes of outside playtime. Better yet? Go outside and play with your kids! If it’s cold, bundle up, have a quick game of tag in the back yard, then warm up inside with a bowl of hot soup. BEST! PARENT! EVEEEEERRRRR!
One last thing. Get a beat on how often your kids are going outside for recess at school. Hopefully, it’s nearly every day, even in the cold months. If you find that they are only going out once or twice a week, you should discuss this with your child’s teacher or principal. Here are some suggestions on how to go about doing this.
We have many things to worry about as parents; some we can help with, and some we can’t. Practicing wellness is one thing you CAN help your kids with. It’s not even hard! Calculus? That’s hard. The first month with a newborn baby? Woof. Helping your family sleep, exercise, and eat well during sniffle season? That’s not hard. That’s a choice. A good one.