How I’m Getting My Kids Ready for Their New Normal

How I’m Getting My Kids Ready for Their New Normal

By Bianca Gonzalez Intal


For almost three years, it’s been a rollercoaster of ups and downs for us parents. Looking after our family’s physical health and mental wellness, monitoring cases, surges or what ‘CQ’ or Alert Level we’re on, enjoying much more quality time at home with our kids but also managing how to keep working and earning for the family.

Now, we can finally say things are looking up as life moves to the “new normal” and as our kids go back to face-to-face classes! But of course, the top concern on our mind as parents: How can we help our kids be physically, mentally, and emotionally ready and healthy for this pandemic era?

After talking to many experts and putting their insights together, I came up with a list of 5 ways to help our kids thrive:

1 — Strengthen Our Kids’ Immunity

“Immunity” has been such a buzz word during the pandemic, and rightfully so. As our kids are poised to spend much more time outdoors in school or at gatherings, their health and safety is top priority. One of the most important things I learned was that the secret to boosting immunity is actually inside us: in our gut, where around 70% of the immune system resides. What does that mean? Our gut is filled with microbes (that means organisms!) and bacteria are a kind of microbe also found in our gut. It’s easy to think that all bacteria can cause our kids to get sick, but the truth is, there are good bacteria that can help with digestion and boost immunity. When we help our kids develop good gut health at an early age, it lays the foundation for a lifetime of overall health and wellness for them—who wouldn’t want that?

Apparently, there are so many ways in which we can help build good gut health for our kids. First, play outdoors! Play? Outdoors? Yup. Studies show that outdoor play is a great way to expose our kids to different kinds of microbes, which can help build their immunity. Not to mention the benefits of getting some sun (vitamin D) and running around to get their blood flowing and heart rate going. Even playing with your pets can help familiarize their immune system to other kinds of bacteria to strengthen their system. To be honest, my daughters Lucia and Carmen love to play rough, hug, and lie down on our giant poodle, Dublin. I used to be alarmed when they would have their faces so close together! But knowing this, that it helps strengthen their gut, has changed everything for me.

Another way to build good gut health is to encourage our kids to eat food that is high in fiber—fruits, vegetables, grains. On the flip side, try to lessen their intake of sweets because this can also mess with their good bacteria.

2 — Develop Routines with Your Kids

Developing routines don’t only make our kids feel safe and secure; research also shows that establishing family routines has a positive effect on children’s social skills and emotional resiliency. Plus, for us parents, when we know the flow of the day for our kids, we can plan when we have time to do work, chores, and even self-care.

Routines in this pandemic era are specifically crucial because they will be coming in and out of the house more often than the past few years. Here at home, when my husband comes home from work, both Lucia and Carmen know that they can’t hug daddy yet, that daddy has to take a bath first before they can go to him. They also know that whenever there is a delivery, we need to disinfect and clean before they can open or touch it. When they come home from walking around the village, they know very well that they need to wash their hands thoroughly and change into pambahay. Having these routines at home can help keep our kids healthy and safe in the months to come.

3 — Maximize Quality Time Together

My husband JC and I would like to raise our daughters to be independent and empowered women, but we also want them to value the closeness of our family. Studies show that the first five years are crucial to a child’s development, and that includes the relationships our kids build at home. Right now, I’m a partner of the Knowledge Channel for a program called Talk Ed that is geared towards parents of kids aged 0 to 8 and I’ve been learning so much. We usually focus on information for parents of grade school or high school or college kids, when the reality is, the foundation for their learning starts literally when they’re born! Early childhood care development is so important because these serve as the building blocks for our kids to be ready by the time they reach schooling age. 

According to UNICEF, “the formative early years of a child’s life demand a nurturing environment and attentive care. Early childhood is critical for cognitive, social, emotional and physical development.” It literally starts at home, and that’s us parents, even grandparents and caregivers. It’s in the little everyday moments that we eat together, play together, share stories that help our kids develop.

4 — Make Sure They Get Proper Nutrition

Of course! We can’t talk about keeping our kids healthy without talking about them eating healthy. I already mentioned earlier the importance of fiber-rich food for gut health, and just to add to that, choosing a variety of fruits and vegetables gives them the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients they need. As they say, the more “colorful” their plate is, the better. 

Two pro tips: First, if your kid didn’t like a certain fruit or vegetable the first time, it doesn’t mean they won’t like it forever. You can make them try it again a few months after, in a different dish or cooked differently, and they just might like it. Second, the more your kids see you eating vegetables, the more they’ll see that it's “normal” food and it will normalize them eating it, too. 

But…the reality is, our kids don’t eat healthy all the time, every day. There are times that they are hard to feed or not in the mood or eat so little. This is where milk supplementation comes in and is still recommended after the age of 3 because there are so many nutritional benefits from drinking milk every day. Milk supplementation provides important nutrients to support the immune system, holistic growth, and brain development. 

Now that my girls are older, I knew I wanted to ensure my grow smart and strong, which is why they have been Similac GainSchool kids from the start. It was the first formula milk that introduced 2’-FL HMO (that means 2’-Fucosyllactose human milk oligosaccharides) that has a big positive impact on gut health and immunity! I was impressed then, but I am even more impressed now. Just a few months ago, I hosted an event and learned all about 5HMO+. Yes, five! What does that mean? Dr. Jose Rodolfo Dimaano Jr., medical affairs director for Abbott’s nutrition business in Pacific Asia, explains this amazing innovation for child nutrition:

      “From our breakthrough formula of 2’-FL HMO, Abbott is now introducing the new                Similac GainSchool, the world’s first formula with 5HMO+ and added gangliosides.                  We’ve added five of the most abundant HMOs, including 3-FL, a dominant HMO                      found in nature to help make our formula better suited for Filipino children. 5HMO+              helps strengthen protection that supports 10 immunity outcomes. The new Similac                  GainSchool also contains a special nutrition system made up of gangliosides which are            essential for neural signaling to help improve cognitive development. This new                          formulation sets a new, higher standard in child nutrition, helping children develop                  stronger immunity and higher IQ for faster learning.”

We only want the best for our kids, which is why I am so proud and honored to be part of the Similac GainSchool family because they are continuously making ways to give the best to our kids. There are so many more fascinating things you can learn from Dr. Dimaano, and he always explains things so simply and clearly! So if you want to know more, you can watch my interviews with Dr. Dimaano like this webinar on developing faster learners or this conversation on super foods!

5 — Be Honest and Open

From the start of the pandemic and the lockdown, we have always tried our best to explain what is happening in the world to our kids, in age-appropriate terms, of course. We are honest and open about what the virus is, what it means when people get sick, and what we can do to stay safe. Being open with our kids about our worries and fears also helps them understand the emotions they may be feeling, and it also makes them feel safe enough to open up to us. The more we answer their questions honestly, the easier it will be for them to understand how things will unfold in the coming months or years, especially since there are still many uncertainties.

My brother told me this and I always keep it in mind: control the controllables. Yes, the future in this pandemic era has its uncertainties, but when we focus on what we can control—our attitude, our reactions, our routines, our health and well-being—versus what we cannot control, then that’s as ready as we and our kids can be in the new normal.


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