Helping Your Children be the Healthiest Versions of Themselves
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Your kids are growing up in a world full of wild influences. Without guidance and insight, many of those influences can lead them down unhealthy paths. By teaching your children to be aware of unhealthy choices and decisions as they grow, you can save them (and yourself) worlds of hurt, heartache, and painful consequences of bad decisions.
These lessons extend across a number of different realms and take time and patience to convey. But if you’re willing to be intentional with your kids, you can teach them what they need to know to stay healthy and vibrant all the way through childhood and into their adult years.
Here are a few of those broad categories that your kids should understand in order to be and stay healthy.
Teach Proper Nutrition
What your kids eat has a profound effect on how they grow, think, sleep, and perform in school. The nutrition they consume as youngsters also sets them up for a lifetime of good eating habits.
Try to fill their diets with an abundance of fruits and vegetables, complex carbs, and healthy fats. And try to help them avoid as much refined sugar and as many sugary products as you can. Many parents struggle to curb their children’s sweet tooths or desire for sugary snacks and drinks when they are older, not realizing that they’ve contributed to a developed taste for sweet items by feeding them sugary foods from infancy.
Sugar has an addictive quality that rivals other addictive substances including alcohol and some addictive drugs. If you can limit their intake, especially when they are young, and teach them the realities of sugar as they get older, you can help them avoid many of the detriments of sugar as they grow.
Teaching your kids about how to eat well should include not only what to eat, but should also include how to structure eating habits. Portion sizes, eating slowly, appropriate snacking, avoiding things like caffeine before bed, fad diets, and more are all helpful items to cover when helping your children understand nutrition.
Teach the Importance of Exercise and Weight Control
Obesity isn’t just an adult problem. Childhood obesity can be a severely significant issue that can affect children as young as 2 years of age. A lack of emphasis placed on being active and eating well can make it difficult for some children to avoid gaining unhealthy weight. If not curbed, they may become obese.
Childhood obesity can cause a number of harmful side effects, including skeletal and joint problems, early-onset chronic diseases, and even mental or emotional distress. It’s important to help your kids understand the importance of healthy habits that help avoid excessive weight gain.
Importantly, exercise and physical activity isn’t just beneficial because it helps manage weight gain. Teaching your children to value staying active can benefit them in a host of ways.
Activity helps regulate stress and emotions. Engaging in things like team games, sports, or group activities helps develop social skills, communication, and determination. Fun and enjoyment are vital to a child’s development, and experiencing them in the form of physical exertion can create a host of important benefits and contribute to lifelong habits that will help them thrive.
Teach Spirituality, Mindfulness, Faith Practices, or Introspection
Parents navigate the area of spirituality in various ways. If you ascribe to a faith of some kind, your kids will likely grow up in that faith environment and learn it alongside you. Even if you don’t come from or ascribe to a faith background, it can still be worthwhile to consider incorporating some kind of spiritual awareness into your kids’ lives.
A large number of studies have shown the benefits of some kind of spiritual engagement, whether within a particular religion or simply in the form of general mindfulness or spiritual concepts. Faith practices and ideologies can ground people, provide opportunities for spiritual and emotional connection, and create spaces and natural outlets for building relational communities. Giving your children a spiritual outlet is part of helping them grow into holistically healthy adults.
Teach Time and Goal Management
As your kids grow, they’ll gradually take on more responsibilities and activities. From school to extracurricular activities, chores, first jobs, and eventually things like university and employment, things that vie for their time, effort, and attention will continue to increase.
Learning the importance of good time management skills and how to manage goals and responsibilities will help them immensely as they take more on. From encouraging them to finish a homework assignment before going out to play to learning how to implement to-do lists or good study techniques, this process can mature as they do.
Teach Them What to Avoid
It’s important for your kids to have a baseline understanding of things they may be offered, told about, or exposed to that could do them harm. It can be difficult to decipher when, where, and how to talk to your kids about the realities of “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” — how to be safe, aware, and responsible when dealing with sexual activity, alcohol, drug usage, cigarettes, and vaping.
Some parents avoid these conversations at all because they don’t know how to bring them up or are afraid they’ll come across as pushy or controlling. Don’t avoid these topics! If they don’t learn the basics from you in a safe, healthy, and knowledgeable environment, they’ll learn them from YouTube videos or peers at school. Part of helping your children grow up happy and healthy is to make sure they understand the stuff they should avoid or, at the very least, treat with respect and caution.
Does this seem like a long list? Don’t be too alarmed. This is a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t have to make your kids experts in each of these areas by the end of the week. Just be aware of how each one contributes to health and gradually help your kids understand them over time.
*This article is based on personal suggestions and/or experiences and is for informational purposes only. This should not be used as professional advice. Please consult a professional where applicable.