Healthy lifestyles

8-12 years

There are many different pressures in family life which can place a range of demands on both our bodies and minds.

As parents and carers, taking the time to invest in our own physical and emotional well-being can be invaluable to supporting our children’s wellbeing. Many of us know that, as carers, we are better able to meet our children’s needs when we are able to take care of ourselves both physically and mentally.

Girl being taught to ride a bike

We are our children’s role model, and by showing them how important it is to take good care of ourselves we can influence and support our 8 to 12 year olds to set up positive habits and behaviours which become part of everyday life. 

There are many things that are happening for your 8 to 12 year old both emotionally and physically so let’s have a look at some of the areas where you can encourage and support them.

Healthy Eating

Support your child to become involved in what they are eating and helping prepare meals

  • Encourage them to understand what is meant by healthy eating - BBC bitesize has a great video aimed at 8-12 year olds on why a healthy lifestyle is important
    Young girl and her mother cooking a healthy meal
  • There are also some great healthy eating quizzes on the BBC site which can be useful ways to start a conversation with your child
  • Support them to understand the link between the food we eat and long term health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease
  • Look with them at the amount of sugar and saturated fats in their favourite drinks and food
  • Get them reading and understanding food labels so they can make healthy choices
  • Ask them ideas for healthy snacks
  • Think about your own eating habits – be a role model to your child

Take a look at the Change4Life Food Facts page and share with your child. They have some great food swaps and information that is presented in a fun way. 

Being more active

Not exercising enough can contribute to long term health conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. We want our children to grow up knowing that exercise can keep our hearts, lungs and muscles strong and healthy for the whole of our lives. It is recommended that our 8 - 12 year olds aim to have an hour’s exercise every day. This can include walking, running, playing a sport, swimming, dancing, walking the dog etc. The benefits of being active are:

  • Improvements in behaviour

  • Raising your child’s self-esteem and confidence
  • Improving your child’s sleep patterns
  • Strengthening muscles and bones
  • Supporting development in co-ordination
  • Developing your child’s social skills

Take a look at some websites that might inspire the whole family to get moving: 

The Body Coach – PE with Joe

NHS – Change 4 Life

Emotional Wellbeing

As parents and carers, it is just as important to support our children’s emotional wellbeing as it is to support their physical health.

  • Good emotional wellbeing can influence your child’s self-esteem which in turn influences how they feel about themselves and other people.

  • It can provide them with the skills to cope with the ‘ups and downs’ of life.

    Children playing together

  • Supporting your child to learn mindfulness and self-regulation skills can in turn help with your child’s behaviour.
  • It can support your child to build positive relationships.
  • Role model taking care of your own emotional wellbeing.
  • Ensure you have a good understanding of your child’s online habits and you are aware of how much time they are spending online. Have a look at the NSPCC site for more information on supporting your child online 
  • Have a look at the range of mindfulness apps for children that are available and find one that will suit your child.

Take a look at the Young Minds website for more information on the importance of emotional wellbeing in our children   

Sleep

Girl sleeping

As parents and carers, you know how important it is to get a good night’s sleep!  This is the same for your child: it not only restores them physically, but it helps them to learn and remember things.

Take a look at the following websites for information on bedtime routines, how much sleep your child needs and how their sleep pattern will change as they become teenagers.

NHS Live Well – Sleep and tiredness

BBC Help Me Out – Sleep

Puberty

This can be a challenging time for children and parents. As we are all different, it is completely normal for a child to begin puberty at any time between the ages of 8 and 14 years old.

Take the opportunity to talk to your child about the changes that are going to happen to their bodies. Look at the NHS Live Well website for more information and support.

If you are concerned about your child’s health or emotional wellbeing, to start with you should contact your GP who will able to support you, or point you to the right support for your child.

Further resources

NHS Change4Life - aims to ensure parents have the essential support and tools they need to make healthier choices for their families

The NHS Eatwell Guide - shows how much of what we eat overall should come from each food group to achieve a healthy, balanced diet

NHS Live Well - Physical activity recommendations for children and young people

NHS Stress, Anxiety and Depression - It can be hard to start conversations with our children on feelings, the NHS has a section dedicated to helping you start the conversation with them.

Parentzone has a lot of help and advice for families living in a digital world, such as ‘10 Golden Rules of Healthy, Happy Mealtimes’ – this could help you to get your children into healthy habits which will set them up for their whole lives.