You can help your children develop healthy habits early in life that will bring lifelong benefits. Because your children look up to you, you should set them a good example.
At the same time, helping your children live their best lives will undoubtedly make you think twice about some of your own habits, which could perhaps do with some redress and cure.
A positive attitude will contribute to your well-being throughout life and help your children become more resilient. Help your children develop positive attitudes by encouraging them to do what they can instead of always telling them what they can’t.
Make a point of celebrating their successes, but don’t make them feel they are only good enough if they are top of the class or play for the first team. Most people can be perfectly contented and well-adjusted with average effort and results.
Modern children are often exposed to digital media from computers, play stations, smartphones, tablets and television throughout the day. The problem is that too much digital media results in a sedentary lifestyle and critical social interactions are not learnt. Also, children who spend the majority of their time in front of a screen don’t get into the habit of regular exercise and many experience difficulty sleeping.
You can teach them to use screen time in a healthy way that can improve their lives. Limit the time they spend on digital media and instead substitute it with other activities.
- Reading with your children every day from babyhood helps connections form in their young brains. These build language, literacy and social-emotional skills essential in childhood development.
- Introduce your children to a range of physical activities – from swimming to hiking and ball sports like tennis and lawn cricket – and enjoy them together as a family. Not all children like the same activities, but you are sure to find some most will enjoy.
- If you have trouble motivating them, try simple toys like skipping ropes or inflatable beach balls, and choose different locations so that they don’t get bored with the backyard. Public parks and playgrounds, sports fields and swimming pools or the beach are good options.
Filling their plates with brightly coloured foods translates into a high nutritional value with many health benefits – especially when the foods are in season. Start early with vegetables and fruits, brimming with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Avoid sugar-laden fruit and vegetable juices and soft drinks.
Eating a balanced breakfast with protein, carbohydrates, and fats is a good way for your children and you to start the day. Instead of opening a box of sugar-coated breakfast cereal, try the following:
- Muesli or granola with double-cream yoghurt and sliced banana.
- Hard-boiled eggs, toast and an apple.
- Peanut butter, honey and cheese on whole-grain bread or toast.
Teach your child about nutrition by encouraging them to read the food labels on their favourite packaged snacks. Focus on the amount of sugar, saturated fat, energy (kilojoules) and serving size. Food labels have the ingredients listed in descending order by amount. So, for instance, if sugar is the first ingredient listed, the snack contains more sugar than any other ingredient.
Teach your children the importance of managing their money, starting with the idea of earning their own money rather than just giving to them. For example, instead of handing out money for doing nothing, you should pay them for the chores done around the house like cleaning their rooms, washing dishes, setting the table or mowing the lawn.
Once they are familiar with earning money, you can teach them how to save, share and spend wisely.
The key to helping children adopt healthy habits is consistency in what you say and do, and it’s important for them to see that you follow your own advice. Children tend to copy what you do, so if it’s evident to them that you care about your health, they’re likely to follow your example.
It’s up to you to teach your children the habits they need to live happy, healthy lives. Some of these can last a lifetime.