It’s essential to keep our kids as healthy as possible to prevent illness. Maintaining good overall health in children is important, so they grow and develop appropriately. A child’s health encompasses physical, mental, and social well-being. My grandfather used to say, “if you have your health, you have everything.” If you and your child are healthy, you will have more energy, lower medical costs, and improved moods. Here are some ways to promote healthy habits within your child:
Create a Bedtime Routine and Regular Bedtime
Sleep helps the brain function properly, which improves learning. Studies show sleep deficiency increases the risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Receiving the proper amount of sleep promotes proper growth and development, improves social interactions, and increases immunity against diseases.
NIH recommends school-age children and teens should sleep for 9-10 hours per night. Bad sleep habits will affect both your physical and emotional health. One way to ensure your child receives enough sleep is to create a scheduled bedtime based on when they need to wake up in the morning. If you maintain the same bedtime every night, it will be easier to fall asleep and create a healthy habit.
Another way to help your child receive the proper amount of sleep is to have a bedtime routine beginning a half-hour before the expected sleep time. This routine will help your child relax, leading to falling asleep more easily. Some suggested bedtime routines are reading, a warm bath, drawing, listening to soothing music, or other calming activities.
Read Food Labels
According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than tripled since 1970. Childhood obesity has short- and long-term effects on a child’s physical, social, and emotional health. For this reason, a child needs to maintain a healthy weight.
Reading and understanding food labels is a way for a child to determine if food is healthy. The food label will demonstrate the number of calories, sugar, and fat content and also break down the recommended daily intake percentage to help create a balanced diet. It also helps to become more aware of what you are eating since you might think a food is healthy only to learn it isn’t after reading the food label.
Exercise with Your Kids
The CDC recommends that children and teens be physically active for 60 minutes daily. Physical activity should include aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening activities. If you exercise with your child and select something you both view as fun, you will be more likely to do it. Some suggested family activities are walking, running, hiking, dancing, biking, and a workout class or video. Create a weekly scheduled routine to incorporate the movement into your lives, which would create a healthy habit.
Limit Screen Time
Screen time consists of watching television, playing video games, or using electronic devices. When a child is in front of a screen, they are typically sedentary and not interacting with others. A research study at UCLA found that kids with too much screen time have difficulty understanding other people’s emotions. In addition, Dr. Leonard Epstein studied the effects of limiting screen time in obese children. The findings demonstrated that the children consumed 300-1500 fewer calories when screen time was limited. Both of these research studies illustrate the importance of limiting screen time to help your child socially interact with others, eat fewer calories and be more physically active.
Encourage Social Interactions
It is essential to encourage your child to develop healthy relationships with peers and adults. Problem-solving, managing friendships, and understanding emotions are necessary for a child’s positive mental health. These skills will also enable a child to learn more effectively in the classroom.
Discuss Physical and Emotional Safety with Kids
According to the CDC, car accidents are one of the leading causes of death in children. One study found over 600,000 children did not use the proper car seat or seat belt, which could prevent death during an accident. Other accidental deaths include drowning, fire/burns, guns, poisoning, and suffocation. To prevent injuries and death, it is important to discuss safety issues regarding all of these potentially dangerous situations.
Children and teenagers may be in situations where they are offered drugs or subjected to physical or sexual abuse. Discuss with your child healthy and appropriate relationships.
Be a Healthy Role Model
Children and teens model their parent’s positive and negative behaviors. Research conducted at Duke University found kids were more likely to eat well and exercise if their parents modeled those behaviors. If you model a healthy lifestyle, your child will most likely lead one as well.
Cheryl Maguire holds a Master of Counseling Psychology degree. She is married and is the mother of twins and a daughter. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, Parents Magazine, AARP, Healthline, Your Teen Magazine, and many other publications. She is a professional member of ASJA. You can find her at Twitter @CherylMaguire05.