Healthy Kids are Happy Kids
We all want healthy kids, and with the pressures of fast food and our relatively lethargic society, it is important to teach our children about healthy living. And of course the best way to do that is lead by example!
If you are healthy and have a healthy lifestyle, then there is a good chance your children will pick up the same habits and be healthy kids – and vice versa. So read the “Health Goals” tab on the NavBar to find out how YOU can be healthy and lead by example.
But here are some things your healthy kids need to know:
- Genetics – kids need to know that they are the way they are, and that everyone is unique – and that this is OK. Their DNA was determined long before they were born, and has programmed in what they are going to look like, what their personality is and even how intelligent they are.
Humans are funny – we spend all our primary school years trying not to be different, we then spend our high school years trying to stand-out and be ‘individual’ and then finally as adults we realize that it doesn’t really matter – we are who we are.
So one of the best things you can do as a parent is help your children like who they are – including any little differences.
- Of course their DNA will have programmed in a particular ‘health’ program too - you can’t change this program either, but by making health living choices you can get the most of it. If you have any hereditary health issues in your family, it’s important that you explain these to your children when you think they are old enough to understand.
- Health eating – encourage your kids to eat healthy foods. Lots of fruit and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. Kids can tolerate a lot more fat in their diet than adults, and is needed for their brain development. But these should still be good fats from dairy, nuts and fish.
Keep fatty fried foods and other junk food [chips, sweets and soda drinks] to a minimum and only have these as treats – despite what my 3 year old thinks, chocolate is not a main meal!
Get your kids involved in cooking healthy dinners, or maybe even growing their own vegetables!
- Exercise - Kids usually love running around and playing, so getting exercise shouldn’t be difficult. Some kids though became addicted to video/ computer games and TV, and it’s important that you get these kids moving! Even if they don’t like sport, there are lots of activities they can do that involve getting out of the house and exercising – even gardening!
Fit kids are healthy kids!
- Addictions – there are some nasty addictions that you really want your children to stay away from – drugs, excessive alcohol, smoking, excessive gambling. But kids being kids often reach the rebellious stage and want to try some of these things - unfortunately that’s just part of growing up.
The important thing is to be open and frank with your children about the dangers of these addictions before they are tempted – in many cases, this is enough to warn them away.
But also maintain diligence in looking out for the signs of drug addiction, etc and take action as soon as you know there may be a problem. There are lots of support agencies and organizations that can help.
- Sleep – we all need to get a good night sleep to perform at our best, and especially kids. They need enough sleep for their little bodies and brains to grow, and also so that they can be bright enough to pay attention at school. They need enough sleep to be healthy kids.
Teach your children good bedtime routines – don’t have a TV or computer in their bedroom as this will only distract them and discourage sleep. Remember, bedrooms are for sleeping, not watching TV or surfing the internet.
If your child wants somewhere to ‘retreat’, then see if you can set up a study area somewhere for them – somewhere where parents won’t disturb them and they can have their personal space, but separate to their bedroom.
- Mental Health – kids get stressed just as much as adults, and more so in some cases. The old saying ‘sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me’ just isn’t true, and teasing and verbal abuse can cause long term psychological damage.
Some children are naturally more sensitive than others and it is important to maintain a watchful eye over their well-being to make sure that they aren’t unduly affected. Be involved with your child’s interests and teachers and deal with any issues immediately.
And teach your kids about how to manage stressful situations and deal with things that ‘hurt’ them emotionally. Happy kids really are healthy kids.
- Growing pains – as your kids grow, their bodies change and this can cause them a great deal of stress if they aren’t prepared – particularly during puberty. As your child approaches puberty, discuss with them the changes they will go through so they are prepared when it happens.
And make sure you talk to them about the birds and the bees too – the last thing you want is your children finding out about this topic the hard way. And by being open about sex education and contraception, your kids are more likely to come to you for advice or when they have problems.
- Security and protection - Unfortunately in today’s society, we need to be more protective of our children than our parents did. But we still need to give them enough freedom to learn and experience life. And if you stay involved in your children’s hobbies and interests, you’re more likely to be able to protect them.
Internet security is very important – make sure you have a good filter and keep the computer in a public part of your house so you can always see in the corner of your eye what your children are doing. Kids are naturally very trusting, so won’t necessarily know if they are being targeted online.
Safe kids are healthy kids.
The most important thing for parents is to be there for their kids – be their friend, their mentor, their confidant – so that if they do have a problem, they feel comfortable coming to you for help.
Help your children set health goals for any areas they maybe deficient in – perhaps your child is a couch potato, or is addicted to junk food? Firstly educate them on healthy living and then help them set health goals to improve.
And remember that being ‘healthy’ is more than having a good immunity against colds – it’s about well-being and mental health, healthy eating, fitness, self-respect and confidence.
Healthy kids are happy kids!
Do you have a story or some advice that could help kids get healthy? Write a page on it and help kids get ahead.
Articles by Winsome Coutts: