Raising children is hard work. Raising healthy kids takes even more effort. But you want the best for your little ones, and it makes sense that you want an upbringing that gives them a strong base to become healthy, balanced and independent adults. Ones that are self-motivated, happy and successful. Here are key rules for raising healthy kids, so they can make you proud.
1. Do Put Them In Sports
You likely already know kids NEED to be active. But putting your son or daughter into sports is just as important. Boys are often enrolled in soccer, hockey, baseball, basketball, football and more, but kidshealth.org says sports can also give girls these same benefits: improved learning, memory and concentration, as well as skills for teamwork, goal-setting and learning how to succeed; there’s also the benefit of a healthy body weight and lower risk for breast cancer and osteoporosis later in life; and it also boosts confidence and feelings of happiness; not to mention the friendships created among teammates.
2. Do Let Them Make Healthy Food Choices
You might think that letting your child decide what to eat may mean ordering pizza delivery or heading through the drive-thru for burgers and fries. But United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service says that kids will learn to make the right decisions when you let them. For example, when they serve themselves at meal time, they learn to be aware of satiety, portion size, sharing, fine-motor skills and hand-eye coordination. To set up a healthy “buffet,” use small bowls and serving utensils that they can use easily, help them when they need it, and be ready to clean up spills and messes. Also show them a variety of foods and don’t take it too seriously when they say they don’t like something. It will take them multiple tastings (and different ways prepping and serving the foods) before they truly know if they don’t like something or not. And if you get them involved with cooking (washing, sorting colours, setting the table, etc.) they’ll have a sense of pride and want to try what they made.
3. Don’t Decide When They’re Full
Very young children will eat what they need, reports the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service. They have a strong sense of hunger, appetite and fullness. And because their metabolism, energy levels and more are changing in their growing bodies, you’ll notice moment they won’t eat much and other times they’ll want seconds. Don’t worry about it. As long as your doctor says they’re growing properly, you’re good.
4. Don’t Take Their Memory For Granted
You might think that memory is developed naturally and that they later learn to memorize in school. But parents have a big part in boosting memory development. According to Child and Youth Health, there are five techniques for teaching your child how to remember: get them to visualize (imagine in their head what they’re to remember), chaining things together (grouping), linking things to a place (ex. pick up eggs at the store), chunking information into smaller pieces (eg. breaking down a phone number into a set of three numbers and a set of four numbers), and acrostics (using a funny poem or sentence to spark memory). Learning these skills will teach them to be better in school and be more logical.
5. Don’t Take On Their Stress For Them
Being protective of your children is a natural instinct, but you want them to grow up being able to handle stress. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention, children and adolescents struggle to cope with stress. It can be overwhelming for them, and parents can provide the support they need to feel better. This means listening to them and encouraging them to express themselves. It will help them understand their fears and worries, instead of making them seem too big to deal with. And keep the conversation going, and check in with them a week, a month, later.
6. Do Encourage Positive Body Image
Why do you want your son or daughter to have a positive body image? AboutKidsHealth says that it can, not only help them feel good about heir body, but it encourages them to take care of their body with nutritious food and regular exercise and it gives them confidence. Having this solid view on themselves can set them up to handle their teen years better. So what can you do? “Place less emphasis on your child’s appearance and more on their abilities and skills,” “be a role model by accepting your body and maintaining a positive attitude towards food and exercise,” “make time for family meals and enjoy the time spent together,” “encourage your child to think critically about messages and images they see and hear in the media,” “help your child understand that their body will change, especially throughout puberty,” “promote activities that make your child feel good about themselves and that don’t focus on their appearance,” and “teach your child that it is OK to show emotions such as sadness, anger, and frustration.”
7. Do Recognize That You Are A Healthy Role Model
You set the tone for the healthy behaviors your child sees. According to WebMD, even if your habits are more on the unhealthy side, it’s not to late to make changes and be the healthy role model your children need. Here’s how: make your health a priority, be positive about the changes you make, get the kids involved, make nutrition fun.
8. Do Teach Them To Be Competitive
Competition can be tricky. There is some research, according to the NY Times, that says that competition can be toxic for children. It can create anxiety, damage self-esteem and cause social withdrawal. But as a parent prepping a child for the “real world” competition exist, especially with job performance and more. The same report points to another study that shows that competition can also enhance performance. But as a parent, it’s up to you to teach competition in a healthy way. Go beyond the terms “winning” and “losing,” and talk about “cooperation” and “trying.” It also teaches them about how to cope with not being the best and dealing with not getting everything they want.
9. Do Check In With Yourself
We’re all doing our best with our kids. No one is perfect, but there’s no harm in seeing how well you’re doing. Why not take this U.S. Department of Health & Human Services quiz called: Raising Healthy Kids: An Asset-Based Check-in For Parents. The “check-in” is based on the developmental assets identified by Search Institute, a nonprofit research and education organization that focuses on young people’s healthy development. It essentially asks very specific questions about your behavior and relationship with your child, their peer relationships and more and how they could handle stressful and life-changing decisions. Check it out.