The most influential person in a child’s journey to health, is you! Parents are the first and best resource when it comes to modeling a healthy lifestyle to their children. Teaching children to value and nourish their bodies, helps to set them on a path to self-care and self-love.
Children are constantly bombarded by digital advertisements that encourage unhealthy habits, and detrimental views of beauty. And it’s affecting their health. According to the CDC, nearly one in five school age children and youth (six to 19 years) in the U.S. is obese. Teaching a healthy lifestyle early can be a preventative measure for future health problems associated with improper nutrition and exercise.
We talked with child psychiatrist Vinay Saranga M.D., to understand what role parents can play in instilling healthy lifestyle habits in their children. Here’s what he recommends for parents:
Talk to Your Child
It’s important to be able to have open conversation with your child about their physical health and wellbeing. It’s also important to be empathetic while educating yourself and your child on the effect poor health choices have on our bodies. Try to let your child guide the conversation in order to keep an open line of communication. While speaking with them about their health, refrain from making statements and ask questions instead. Together, you can work with your child to find what activities will help them live a healthier life.
Encourage Healthy Eating Habits
Eating a balanced diet is a great way to help fuel and maintain a healthy body.Encourage your child to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and educate them on the benefits of doing so. Cutting back on things like sugary drinks can be difficult, so be sure to show your child some tasty alternatives like water infused with fresh fruit.
Making the choice to live healthier can be hard work, so try to implement any lifestyle change slowly, and don’t give up!. Every little step helps you accomplish the bigger goal of better health. There is no one size fits all plan for healthy living– try to find what works for you. When it comes to eating a nutritious diet, a good place to start might be as simple as reducing the amount of salt you use to prepare a dish, reducing portion sizes, or trading out soda for water.
Make Activity a Family Event
Being active at least 30 minutes a day is a great way to strengthen muscles and stay physically healthy. Work with your child to find some heart-pumping activities that they would enjoy,and make plans to get your bodies moving!. Even if you don’t have much time during the week to be active with your child, try to make time for family outings over the weekend. Some fun activities include going to a park, taking a walk in nature, or visiting the zoo.
Include Your Child in Healthy Decisions
Children want to feel included in family decisions, so encourage them to participate!. Work on including your child’s suggestions when planning meals, and future family activities. When you include your child, they are more likely to view a healthy lifestyle as a beneficial and enjoyable lifelong goal.
Make it Fun
One way to ensure your children live healthy, active lifestyles, is to find what gets them excited and use that to make physical activity more fun. When your kids look forward to something and get enjoyment out of it, they are more likely to want to engage. For example: you can invite their friends to partake in an outdoor activity or offer a reward for making health conscious choices.
Set the Example
The best way to teach healthy living is to lead by example. Children look up to their parents, so being the model of a healthy and active lifestyle is important. When children see a happy, healthy model of success, they will be more inclined to follow in your footsteps. Making efforts to be active and make healthy food choices, will influence your child to do the same… Additionally, stocking your home with healthy eating options will help make staying healthy easier for the whole family!
Online resources can be great for finding healthy, easy recipes for any budget. However, sometimes all that online content can feel like too much to sift through. If you feel overwhelmed or confused, always talk to your children’s pediatrician or seek the advice of a dietitian or nutritionist.
Vinay Saranga M.D. is a child psychiatrist and founder of Saranga Comprehensive Psychiatry