How to Help Your Kids Create Healthy Habits
When it comes to our children and the habits they develop as they grow, sometimes we parents get so focused on the things they shouldn’t be doing – leaving wet towels on the bathroom floor or biting their fingernails – that we forget how to put a positive spin on all that attention. How do we help kids create healthy habits? It’s all about modeling the behaviors and choices that we want to see them try and copy for themselves.
Parents are their children’s first teachers, and their biggest role models for the first several years of their lives. So while we may tell our kids to do what we say – and not necessarily what we do – most kids are like little sponges, absorbing everything they see and hear.
In a study by Florida researchers looking at the eating habits of some parents and children in a low-income bracket, the results showed a clear association between parents who made healthy eating a priority, and their children’s eating habits. Parents who ate lots of fruits and vegetables and were at a healthy weight had children who followed in their footsteps. Moms and dads who ate the recommended number of fruit and vegetable servings each day were 10 times more likely to have kids who did the same, compared to parents who did not eat enough healthy foods. This shows how the mirror effect of being healthy yourself can impact your kids in a positive way.
What are some of the best healthy habits you should be modeling? Let’s take a look at these tips from the American Heart Association and other health experts:
Limit screen time. This admittedly is a tough one for some kids – and many adults. Most children in elementary, middle and high school are racking up several hours each day in front of TV, laptop, tablet or phone screens. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends kids cut back their screen time to just an hour or two each day. Start with small steps, like putting away all phones during mealtimes. Turn on music in the background instead of having a television on that people aren’t really watching.
Get moving. Show your kids that exercise isn’t just something you do when you want to lose weight, but that it’s a fun activity you make time for each day to stay healthy. You can make family walks or bike rides an after-dinner routine. Or let your kids pick something they want to try – even if it’s hula-hooping or a cartwheel contest in the front yard.
Fruits and vegetables. The question is never “Do you want any vegetables?” Instead, it’s “what kinds of vegetables do you want to eat today?” Making a wide selection of fruits and veggies a regular part of grocery shopping and mealtimes will mean kids just think it’s normal. They’ll find their favorites and be open to new tastes as they get older.
Bedtime is a big deal. A lot of kids love the idea of staying up past their bedtime. And it’s fun once in a while as a treat, but it’s important that children understand how important sleep is for their growing bodies and brains. Make bedtime routines important, complete with toothbrushing, pajamas and screens off. They’ll learn that only by getting enough sleep will they be ready for the fun the next day can bring.
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