Parenting comes with many responsibilities, yet one of the most important building blocks you can lay is one that involves making healthy choices. In lieu of finger-pointing (that’s only liable to promote an adverse reaction), setting a good example can set the foundation for making good decisions. Not sure where to start? You’re not alone. Here are the key elements that can help your kids live a healthier life for the long-term.
Be Active As A Family
Considering U.S. obesity rates have hit an all-time high, it’s not a bad idea for the entire family to get moving; for instance, try tossing the ball around in the backyard, signing up for a race or walk, doing household chores like gardening or raking leaves, or taking the dog for a stroll after dinner. Explain to your kids the importance of activity for overall health, including how it will aid them all the way into the future when mobility and strength issues start to arise. Don’t make weight the focal point, as that can prompt an eating disorder or exercise addiction.
Keep Your Grown-Up Belongings Locked Up
Kids are curious, so prevent a mishap by locking up potentially dangerous items such as alcohol, firearms, and medications. Explain how each of these items can be used responsibly so they’re not tempted by the forbidden fruit. When it comes to alcohol, set a good example by not drinking too much in front of your kids, but also warn them of the health risks that come with addiction. Since guns in schools are a major topic of conversation these days, use that as a springboard to start a family conversation about safety.
Create A Stress-Free Environment
Health professionals suggest that one of the reasons kids are stressed is because of outside forces that make it difficult to relax and concentrate on tasks such as homework, thus creating even more stress. One of the easiest ways you can combat this problem is by creating a stress-free home environment. Encourage self-care tactics such as taking time to decompress, and practicing stress-relief techniques such as meditation and breathing exercises. Scheduling regular family time at home (whether that’s the dinner table or movie night) can help you all stay connected, which can make it easier to detect if your child is feeling overwhelmed or is unhappy in any way. Work together to create a bedroom that promotes good sleeping habits by investing in quality pillows and installing a dimmer switch and blackout shades.
Make Healthy Eating Fun
Cooking more meals at home is one way to encourage your kids to eat more healthfully — especially if you’re doing it together. Create a weekly meal plan as a family, getting your kids’ input so they look forward to meal time. Focus on overall diet instead of labeling foods as “good” or “bad,” and always make sure there are a variety of healthy snacks on hand so your kids aren’t tempted to eat junk.
Limit Screen Time
If you’re part of the 70 percent of parents who are concerned about how much screen time your kids are getting, then it’s time to make some limitations. Establishing a schedule can work for younger children, but can get trickier with age as responsibilities increase. Alternatively, allow one binge day, but set limitations for the rest of the week. One activity you can try is making your kid justify his/her use so you can see how their time is being spent. Or, make it easier on yourself by downloading an app tracker that shows which apps are being used and for how long so you can see for yourself. Use this information to have a conversation with your child about usage, if need be.
The earlier you start to implement healthy tactics into your child’s life, the better. While some may be easier than others to implement, don’t give up the fight as you’re setting the foundation for their future. Trust in the fact that they’ll thank you later.