Cheryl Maquire, contributing writer
It’s important to keep your kids as healthy as possible to prevent getting sick. A child’s health encompasses physical, mental, and social well-being. My grandfather used to say, “If you have your health you have everything.” Here are some ways to promote healthy habits within your child:
CREATE A BEDTIME ROUTINE AND REGULAR BEDTIME
Sleep helps your 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 appropriate growth and development, improves social interactions, and increases immunity against diseases.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NIH) recommends school-age children and teens should sleep for 9-10 hours per night. Bad sleep habits affect both physical and emotional health. One way to ensure your child is getting 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 a half-hour before the expected sleep time. This routine will help your child relax which would then lead to falling asleep easier. Some suggested bedtime routines are reading, a warm bath, drawing, listening to soothing music, or other calming activities.
READ FOOD LABELS
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity has more than tripled since 1970. Childhood obesity has both short- and long-term effects on a child’s physical, social, and emotional health.
Reading and understanding food labels are ways for a child to figure out if a food is healthy to eat. The food label will demonstrate the number of calories, sugar, fat content, and also break down the percent of the recommended daily intake 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 children and teens should be physically active for 60 minutes per day. Physical activity should include aerobic, 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, or a workout class or video. Create a weekly, scheduled routine to incorporate it into your life and 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 University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) found when kids have too much screen time they have difficulty understanding other people’s emotions. Dr. Leonard Epstein studied the effects of limiting screen time in obese children. The findings showed that when screen time was limited, children consumed 300-1500 fewer calories. Both of these research studies demonstrate the importance of limiting screen time to help children socially interact with others, eat fewer calories, and be more physically active.
ENCOURAGE SOCIAL INTERACTIONS
Encourage your child to develop healthy relationships with both peers and adults. Problem-solving, managing friendships, and understanding emotions are all necessary tools to develop positive mental health and also enable a child to learn more effectively in the classroom.
DISCUSS PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL SAFETY
According to the CDC, one of the leading causes of death in children is car accidents. One study found over 600,000 children did not use the proper car seat or seat belt, which could prevent death during a car accident. Other accidental deaths include drowning, fire/burns, guns, poisoning, and suffocation. To prevent injuries and death, it is important to discuss all of these potentially dangerous situations.
Children and teenagers may be in situations when they are offered drugs or subjected to physical or sexual abuse. It is important to 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 can model a healthy lifestyle in a way your child can observe and recognize, your child will most likely lead one as well.