Parental Pearls of Wisdom
As a parent, you pass more than genes down to your children. Kids pick up your habits too—both good and bad. Show your kids you care about them by sharing these nuggets of health advice that they’ll carry with them long after you can carry them.
Click through the slideshow to learn 10 healthy habits that every parent should teach their kids.
Habit 1: Make Eating Colorful
Eating foods of different colors isn’t just fun—it has health benefits too. Help your kids understand the nutritional value of including a rainbow of colorful foods in their regular diet.
That doesn’t mean that every meal needs to be multicolored. But you should make an effort to incorporate a range of fruits and vegetables of different hues—from red, blue, and orange, to yellow, green, and white—into their diet.
Habit 2: Don’t Skip Breakfast
Instilling a routine of regular mealtimes in childhood can help make it more likely that your kids will continue this good habit when they’re older. Teach them that a low-fat breakfast not only kick-starts their brain and their energy, but helps with weight maintenance and keeps chronic diseases at bay.
Harvard Medical School confirms that going without breakfast correlates with four times the likelihood of obesity. And the high fiber in many breakfast cereals can help reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Habit 3: Pick Enjoyable Physical Activities
Not every child loves sports—some may dread gym class—but when kids find physical activities they enjoy, staying healthy and active becomes easy. And they just might carry their love of it into adulthood.
If your child hasn’t found their sports niche yet, encourage them to keep trying. Expose them to a range of physical activities like swimming, archery, and gymnastics. They’re bound to find something they enjoy.
Habit 4: Don’t Be a Couch Potato
Get kids off the sofa and out the door. The Mayo Clinic reports that kids who watch more than an hour or two of television a day are at greater risk for a number of health problems, including:
- impaired performance at school
- behavioral difficulties, including emotional and social problems and attention disorders
- obesity or being overweight
- irregular sleep, including trouble falling asleep and resisting bedtime
- less time to play
Habit 5: Read Every Day
Developing strong reading skills is an essential component of your child’s success in school now, and at work later in life. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), daily family reading routines help with children’s literacy development.
The AAP calls reading skills “the foundation for children’s academic success,” and suggests that daily reading to children should begin by six months of age. Choose books your kids like so that they view reading as a treat rather than a chore.
Habit 6: Drink Water, Not Soda
You can keep the message simple: water is healthy, soft drinks are unhealthy. Even if your kids don’t understand all of the reasons why too much sugar is bad for them, you can help them understand the basics.
For example, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), the sugar in colas provides no nutrients and adds calories that can lead to weight problems. Water, on the other hand, is a vital resource that humans can’t live without.
Habit 7: Look at Labels (Food Labels, Not Designer)
While your kids (especially pre-teens and teens) may care about the labels on their clothes, there’s another type of label that’s more important to their health: the food nutrition label.
Show kids how their favorite packaged foods contain labels with vital information about nutrition. Focus on a few key parts of the label (such as number of calories per serving, amount of saturated fats and trans fats, and grams of sugar) to avoid overwhelming them.
Habit 8: Enjoy a Family Dinner
With hectic family schedules, it’s hard to find time to sit down and enjoy a meal together, but it’s worth it to try. According to the University of Florida, research has shown sharing a family meal means that:
- family bonds get stronger
- kids are more well-adjusted
- everyone eats more nutritious meals
- kids are less likely to be obese or overweight
- kids are less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol
Habit 9: Spend Time with Friends
Friendships are very important to the healthy development of school-age children, according to research conducted by the University of Florida. Playing with friends teaches kids valuable social skills such as communication, cooperation, and problem-solving. Having friends can also affect their performance in school.
Encourage your kids to develop a variety of friendships and to play with friends often. It will set them up with life skills they can draw on for years to come.
Habit 10: Stay Positive
It’s easy for kids to get discouraged when things don’t go their way. Help them learn resilience in setbacks by showing them the importance of staying positive. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, children as well as adults can benefit from positive thinking and good relationships.
Help your kids develop healthy self-esteem and a positive mindset by teaching them they are lovable, capable, and unique—no matter what challenges they encounter.