Health and Fitness
Raising Healthy Children: How to Help Your Child Make Healthy Choices
When you become a parent, you have a dream of what family life will look like.
It’s the picture-perfect scenario, but it all gets shattered when your child absolutely refuses to eat anything green or your teen pays attention to nothing except the constant barrage of text messages coming across their phone. No one said parenting would be easy (or perfect), but there are ways to encourage your child to make healthy choices that will shape their future.
Moms Beyond wants your family to thrive, so read on for great tips and information.
Make Healthy Eating the Norm
It’s a lot easier to go through the drive-thru or heat up a frozen pizza for dinner, but don’t let this become the norm. Encourage healthy eating by keeping nutritious snacks on hand and offering them up in fun ways, such as veggies cut into shapes. Make meal preparation a family affair, assigning each child a task, whether it’s washing vegetables, mixing ingredients, or setting the table. Be sure to give your child a little bit of control rather than forcing them to eat their broccoli. Perhaps ask them to rate new foods to get an idea of their likes!
Don’t forget to set dinnertime rules too, such as no gadgets, no TV, no toys, and you must try one bite of everything. Allowing them their video games during downtime is fine, and in fact, CBS News notes that experts feel there are key benefits kids gain from playing them, like better social skills and improved life satisfaction. There are even educational choices like Kodable and Robot Factory. For best results, make sure your internet is up to speed and you have an appropriate gaming monitor.
Promote Physical Activity
Watching your favorite shows together on the couch is certainly family time, but don’t let this be the only way you spend quality time together. Children and teens need physical activity to strengthen their heart, lungs, and bones; reduce blood pressure and cholesterol; lower heart attack and stroke risk; maintain a healthy weight; raise energy levels; and improve overall mood.
Performance Health notes there are plenty of family activities you can do together to get that heart pumping, such as tossing around a football, going for a bike ride, or jumping on the trampoline. In addition, encourage and be supportive of your child participating in sports and hobbies. Remember, anything that gets them off the couch is a good thing.
Model Safe Driving Habits
For many families, the car can be one of the most chaotic places. Children are shouting and fighting, and if you have a teen driver in your midst, it’s a struggle to keep them focused. Set some car rules to keep everyone safe. Seatbelts must be worn and fastened before the car starts, even if this means being late to school, practice, or a birthday party. Children need to learn the importance of staying calm to avoid distracting the driver, whether this involves playing the quiet game or employing some car ride activities.
As for young drivers, model defensive driving habits, and accompany your teen whenever possible for a hands-on approach to teaching them to drive safer. Your teen might balk at having you along for the ride, but studies show that drivers aged 16-17 are 62 percent less likely to be killed in a crash if they are accompanied by an adult aged 35 and up.
Be Mindful of Your Stress-Relief Methods
Children and teens are constantly watching you, and the way you choose to relieve stress can guide and shape their own behaviors and beliefs. For example, be mindful of your automatic decision to reach for substances such as alcohol or nicotine as a coping mechanism for stress. Instead, find a healthy coping mechanism. Rather than say, “I need a drink after this stressful day,” you could say, “Today was stressful. I need to take a walk to decompress; do you want to come with me?”
In addition, Psychology Today recommends helping your child identify stress-relief activities--such as deep breathing, journaling, coloring, or simply talking about their problems with you--to help them deal with any stress or anxiety they are experiencing.
Children and teens are constantly growing and learning. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to teach and encourage them to make healthy choices. It’s no small feat, and there will be mistakes and lessons learned along the way, but seeing your child shine is the ultimate reward.
Article written by MomsBeyond's guest writer, Lacie Martin.