Instilling Healthy Habits: A Cheat Sheet For Parents

Being a parent isn’t easy. Not only do we get the beautiful burden of raising a tiny human into an adult, but we also serve as their role model on their path toward maturity. It isn’t always a smooth ride, and it’s easy to forget that our children must be taught things like eating well, avoiding destructive behaviors, and how to stay physically fit. This quick guide can help you tackle a few of these issues.

Healthy Eating

A person’s health is comprised of many aspects. One of these is the food they eat. Unfortunately, we are a society that prioritizes convenience and often choose to save time when preparing our meals. Frozen and drive-through dinners are a staple in many U.S. homes, but this can take a toll on your child’s brain and body as he grows and develops. Model healthy eating habits by scheduling time to cook and eat together. A recent study by Nestlé found that children who assist in the preparation of their own food tend to choose healthier options, including eating more vegetables.

Oral Hygiene

Your children’s teeth are one of the most important parts of their body. Just because their first set will eventually be replaced doesn’t mean oral care should wait until their adult teeth come in. Children with issues like cavities and tooth pain have trouble eating and may even experience disrupted sleep and missed school. Having a good relationship with your dentist is one of the best ways to prevent oral health issues. Your children should see their dentist and hygienist at least twice per year, or once every six months. You can find a dentist by looking online or asking family and friends for kid-friendly recommendations.

Driving

At some point, our children will get behind the wheel. This is truly one of the most nerve-racking times in any parent’s life, but there are ways you can encourage your child to drive safely. AutoInsurance.com explains that 16- and 17-year-olds, those who are just learning how to operate a motor vehicle safely, have a 62 percent decreased risk of dying in a car crash when they are carrying a passenger who is 35 years or older. In other words, something as simple as jumping in the passenger seat could save your child’s life.

Drugs And Alcohol

The issue of drugs and alcohol is one that can’t be ignored, especially in light of the opioid epidemic sweeping the nation. Make a point to sit down with your children as early as elementary or middle school to discuss what they know about drugs and alcohol. Ask them questions like, “Have you been exposed to drugs at school?” and “Do you know how alcohol affects your mind and body?” Often, this will open a dialogue and give your child the confidence to speak with you openly, which is essential as they enter their teen years and want to experiment with adult things, such as drinking and sex.

Safe Sex

Speaking of sex, this talk is one that is overlooked by parents who assume the topic will be covered in full at school. While most school systems discuss puberty and human reproduction starting as early as fifth grade, nothing replaces parental guidance. It may be uncomfortable, but your kids are going to ask how babies are made. Tailor your response to their age and level of understanding but, as Today’s Parent stresses, be honest. If they are older, make a point to discuss birth control and sexuality in a positive and nonjudgmental way.

Exercise

Encouraging physical fitness may not even require a sit-down heart-to-heart. If you remain active and find fun ways for your children to do the same, they may find that they prefer activities that keep them in motion as opposed to video games that only work their thumbs. Keep in mind that exercise affects your child’s entire body today and in the future.

There are many ways you can encourage healthy habits in your children regardless of their age. Keep in mind, however, that it all starts with transparency. While you might not want to talk to your nine-year-old about condoms, it is never too early to be honest so that you can increase the level of details they need as they progress throughout each stage of their life.


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