Guiding Kids to Healthy Choices
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All parents want the best for their kids. But at the end of the day, kids are their own people who make their own choices. As parents, all we can do is teach them, love them, and give them the tools to make good decisions. One of the most important ways parents can guide their children toward healthy choices is by influencing habits like diet, exercise, and drug and alcohol use.
Homeschooling Dietitian Mom aims to help all families be their absolute best. With that in mind, read on for some valuable information on shaping your child’s behavior now for good health throughout life.
Guiding Kids to Healthy Choices
Diet is the foundation of good health. As the Novak Djokovic Foundation discusses, the eating habits people learn in childhood carry through to adulthood. So, while relying on processed junk foods to satiate a picky eater might seem like no big deal today, it’s a choice with serious long-term implications.
It’s rare that children enjoy the diversity of foods that adults do, but parents can promote healthy eating by offering healthy choices and modeling a good diet through their own behavior. To overcome the fear of new foods, parents should repeatedly offer new, healthy foods in low-pressure environments. Rather than forcing kids to eat something they don’t want, encourage them to try new ingredients by making them available, pairing new foods with liked foods, and getting kids involved in cooking.
In the kitchen, start by having them help with dinner, either by mixing ingredients by hand, using the toaster oven (which is safe under supervision and easy to use), or measuring portions with a kitchen scale. When they get involved, children have a personal stake, which makes learning more enjoyable.
Like eating habits, exercise behaviors are formed early in life. If you want to raise kids who enjoy being active instead of viewing exercise as a burden, incorporate fun physical activity in the fabric of your family life.
Many parents sign kids up for extracurricular sports to keep them active, but playing sports isn’t enough. Because few adults participate in team sports, it’s not an activity that’s easily carried through to adulthood. In addition to sports, weave physical activity into your family’s everyday life. Going on family walks after dinner, running errands by bike, and getting active in the backyard together are wonderful ways to get active and strengthen your family bond.
Drugs and Alcohol
As children grow into pre-teens and teens, another health concern comes into the picture: drugs and alcohol. Substance use doesn’t just get kids into dangerous situations, it can also permanently impair their brain development. Alcohol use before adulthood affects the development of the hippocampus and the prefrontal lobe, the parts of the brain responsible for memory, learning, and decision-making skills. Drugs like marijuana have similar effects, and both drug and alcohol use in adolescence increase the risk of addiction in adulthood.
Kids who turn to drugs and alcohol are often seeking an escape from their problems. In fact, Reuters reports that kids who are bullied are more likely to smoke, drink, and use drugs. Without healthy coping mechanisms at their disposal, substance use becomes a way to escape stress, relationship problems, and poor self-esteem. By giving kids better tools for managing stress, parents can reduce the risk of substance use.
A popular book on parenting (and a short film) is titled, “To a Child, Love is Spelled T-i-m-e” – the idea that what children really need from their parents is time. Similarly, what children need to learn is for their parental figures to model healthy behavior, set a good example, pursue their dreams.
For many adults, having children often means that plans get paused, career tracks shift and we find ourselves ending up somewhere we didn't expect. If it's time to ‘right the course of life' as a parent and pursue that online business degree, flexibility is incredibly important because of everything you are already juggling. But it's not impossible, and your children will benefit from the example you set. You got this!
Parents may not be able to control the choices their children make as adults, but they do play a crucial role in shaping those choices. While it’s possible for adults to undo unhealthy habits learned in childhood, it’s much easier to start with healthy habits and maintain them for a lifetime.
For healthy kids that grow into healthy adults, make good nutrition, physical activity, and positive stress relief a priority in your household.
Connect with Homeschooling Dietitian Mom for more valuable insights into your family’s well-being.
Image via Unsplash
Article courtesy of Alyssa Strickland
Alyssa Strickland created millennial-parents.com for all the new parents on the block. Alyssa believes the old adage that it takes a village to raise a child, but she also thinks it takes a village to raise a parent! Millennial-Parents is that village. Today’s parents can be more connected than ever, and she hopes her site will enrich those connections. On Millennial-Parents, she shares tips and advice she learns through experience and from other young parents in three key areas — Education, Relationships, and Community.
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