As the pandemic wanes, get kids on the road to good health this summer

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Nice weather and a receding pandemic should make for a joyous, memorable summer, especially after a year of lockdowns, frustration and discouraging news. For kids, and their parents, it's also a chance to get back on the road to normal after a long COVID-19 detour.

"I'm really optimistic about this summer compared to where we were last summer," said Dr. Miriam Vos, a pediatrician and professor at the Emory University School of Medicine and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. "A lot of kids have had less activity and less healthy habits, and summer's going to be a nice opportunity to change that."

As a mother of two young children, nutrition specialist Alexis Wood is especially happy "that we're now coming out of this unprecedented hell."

But "let's not pretend all the stress is over," said Wood, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Children's Nutrition Research Center and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "I'm so glad we're thinking about getting our kids back to good health behaviors. But let's remember all of us, both adults and children, are still transitioning.

Don't put undue pressure on yourself. Don't expect that just because the vaccine is here, we can make it go back to exactly how it was. This is the first step."

As families head into summer, here are suggestions on how to take those next steps wisely:

What's up, doc? If you put off going to the doctor during the pandemic, Wood said, "go get your health checks. Make sure your kids see the pediatrician."

That's especially true, Vos said, for children who might have jitters about re-emerging into normal life.

"The whole COVID thing was scary," she said. "There was a lot of bad news. Children who were already anxious may have even more concerns. If parents are seeing a lot of problems, that's something to see your doctor about."

Out you go! "Kids may have gotten used to being inside," Vos said. "Parents need to plan things outside and get back in the habit of being outside."

Besides the physical and mental health benefits of exercise, there's an added bonus: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says you're less likely to be infected by the coronavirus outside when fresh air is constantly moving.