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Giving your children a foundation for making healthy choices in life is a goal most parents would claim. However, sometimes it’s hard to sort out exactly what that looks like. Here are some tips to help you lay the groundwork for your kids to make great choices right from the beginning.
Practice What You Preach
We’ve all heard about how important it is to be a role model for our children. This also applies when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. It isn’t enough to tell your kids they should make healthy choices; you should demonstrate the lesson, too. You don’t need to be a purist, but it’s important for your children to see you trying to do the right thing, like eating right and exercising. This could involve using a kitchen scale (purchase one that has exceptional accuracy to ensure your measures are correct) to help teach the importance of portion control or going for a walk around the block every evening to get a bit of exercise before bedtime.
And speaking of positive, when you talk with your children about making good choices, it can help to phrase things in a positive manner. For instance, instead of saying what they shouldn’t do, tell them what they should do. “You shouldn’t eat French fries,” could instead be something like, “Apple slices would be a healthy choice.”
Do It Together
Participating in a healthy lifestyle can be a family affair. You and your kids can exercise together, like going hiking, dancing, doing calisthenics, biking — the possibilities are almost endless. You can even play on community sports leagues together. Also, you can make grocery shopping a family affair. Ask your kids to select the fruits and vegetables at the store.
One idea is to make a game of it, working your way through the rainbow as you shop. Explain to your children about vitamins and minerals, and how you receive more by selecting a broad variety of colors. If your budget is tight, one suggestion is to look for in-season produce to stretch your budget even further. You can give your kids a handful of inexpensive options when making selections so they are directly involved in the decision-making. Then include your children in meal preparation as well, which can be especially fun for youngsters. And once the meal is prepared, sit down together to eat.
Spending time watching television, playing video games and on computers encourages sedentary behavior. Give your children guidelines for using these devices and ensure they stick to them. Also, don’t use time on electronics as a reward, and don’t give unhealthy snacks like candy as a reward. The Child Development Institute suggests using healthful rewards like events as incentives, say a trip to the park or time with a friend. Something as simple as being allowed to sleep in a different room in the house can be exciting to a young child, so be creative.
Talk About Substances
You may think you don’t need to discuss substance abuse until your kids are in high school, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services explains that by the time children are in preschool they have seen adults drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes either on television, in real life, or online. When you talk with your children, one recommendation is to be clear with your guidelines and rules and listen to what your children say. They may need tools for how to say “no,” so help to find ways to navigate peer pressure and other concerns. Also, many children think “everybody drinks” so that it’s okay, or that “marijuana won’t hurt you.” Explain the ramifications of substances and why they are unhealthy, and avoid movies, television programs, and other media that glamorize these behaviors.
Healthy Beginnings for a Healthy Future
Lay a foundation for your children to lead a healthy life. Help them understand what is good for them and why, and set a great example. Your children will be able to make the right choices with the tools you give them now.
Written by: Amanda Henderson