Help Your Kids Form Healthy Habits for Life

Guest Post by: Sarah Leonard of Nursing Programs.

Father and daughter washing upEvery parent’s number one priority is the health and well being of their child.  You strive to keep them safe, feed them right, and generally ensure that they grow to be capable, well-rounded people without incident.  You shelter them, nurture them, and teach them, whether they like it or not!  And if you’re like most parents, you make yourself miserable thinking of all the things that could go wrong.  Is it safe for them to eat the pudding snacks they love, or should you withhold them in favor of fruit?  Will they make it to their friend’s house on the next block, or should you walk them there?  Can a messy room cause their colds and allergies?  What medications are safe for a child with a fever?  These are the thoughts that plague a good parent.  However, there is excellent news for the worrywart in all of us.  You can employ your children in the cause of their own care by teaching them healthy habits from the get-go.

Start with cleanliness.  There’s no need to go all “Mommy Dearest” on them in order to instill a sense of hygiene.  Making it fun can yield a big difference in the amount of effort a child is willing to expend on their own behalf, so toys in the tub are a good start.  You can also choose kid-friendly products that they’ll love to use, like zoo-themed soap dispensers and toothbrushes, and Tom’s of Maine Toothpaste, which comes in kid-approved flavors like Outrageous Orange Mango and Silly Strawberry (all the incentives of other options, with an ADA Seal of Acceptance, but sans the icky taste).  And cleaning their rooms can be a game if you make up silly songs or dress in superhero costumes.  Rewards for a job well done couldn’t hurt, either, if you want the task to do double duty as a teaching tool (give them good self-esteem).

In terms of learning healthy eating and exercise habits, it’s up to you to get them started on the path.  You, and only you, determine what foods come into your house.  If you only provide nutritious snacks (fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, etc.), that’s what they’ll eat.  If you stock your pantry with soda, chips, and cookies, they are sure to consume whatever is available, so be wary of keeping these items in your home.  Processed foods are best avoided and going organic is even better.  But the best thing you can do is keep your kids informed.  They may not want to hear a diatribe about the what soda can do to their body, but they sure won’t like the cavities that sugary drinks are bound to cause, so tailor your tactics to cover outcomes they can understand.  And make them play outside!  I don’t understand parents who allow their kids to be raised by the one-eyed nanny (I mean, of course, the TV).  They’re certainly not going to stay active if you let them be a couch potato, so get them outside and running around.  It wouldn’t hurt you to get a little exercise as well, so put your money where your mouth is and join them in a round of tag or hopscotch.  Physical activity is not only fun, it’s a great way for you to bond with your child.  Overall, a combination of telling and showing is your best bet to ensure that your kids develop healthy habits that will stick with them for a lifetime.

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