CEO of Action for Healthy Kids
Imagine trying to learn algebra when your parents have lost their jobs and are struggling to put food on the table. Now, imagine trying to learn grammar when you are scared of losing a loved one to COVID-19. As kids, including my own, have started a new school year, these and numerous other concerns have flooded my thoughts.
Building healthy habits and coping skills has always been vital to helping kids succeed and thrive. However, after a tumultuous year marked by a global pandemic, an economic depression, and turmoil over civil rights and injustice, kids are going into the new school year with far less stability and more stressors.
This is why it’s imperative that we, collectively as a nation, work to improve not only kids’ physical health and nutrition, but also their emotional health and resilience. And it’s more urgent than ever that we equip parents and schools with the tools, resources, and programs required to help kids navigate turbulence in a safe, supportive, and healthy environment.
What you can do
Now, whether you are a parent or caregiver sending your child back to an unpredictable school year or a community member who wants to ensure health and educational equity for our kids, here are some things you can do:
- Use the extra time together as a family to adopt new, healthy behaviors and activities at home, such as eating more nutritious foods, productively discussing feelings and emotions, and getting daily physical activity.
- Advocate for change in your local schools or at the state and national level. Urge school and district administrators, school boards, and elected officials to develop policies and programs that create these supportive and healthy learning environments for our kids. You can do this by writing to your school board to set aside funding for nutrition and health practitioners or to your senator to sign on to a bill that expands recess.
- Talk to your principal about developing a more culturally-responsive curriculum and using restorative and positive disciplinary practices.
- Find dozens of free resources online for parents and educators with a wide range of healthy activities to do at home and at school at actionforhealthykids.org/library.
Action for Healthy Kids is addressing the physical and emotional needs of kids this year with school grants for programs that explore the mind-body connection and incorporate social emotional health with physical activity, play, creative expression, and nutrition education. Research is already showing kids falling months behind academically and experiencing significantly more mental health challenges due to the pandemic. Thus, the expression “children are our future” isn’t just a sentimental adage. If we don’t invest in our kids’ physical and emotional well-being and education now, especially in such uncertain times, we are missing a fundamental opportunity to create a future full of healthy, resilient, and thriving adults.