The responsibilities of parents seem endless. Not only is there the responsibility of making sure a child grows up in a safe environment, but parents also must work to help their child develop good habits and development in the different areas of life. This includes their mental abilities, their emotional intelligence, their ability to socialize, and also (although sometimes left on the back-burner) their physical body.
As a parent, one of your most important jobs is to help your child find healthy habits that will keep them happy and healthy Whether it’s eating a healthy diet, staying active, or taking care of their hygiene, these habits will benefit your child – both now and in the future. In today’s post, we’ll share some tips on how to encourage your kiddo to have healthy habits.
#1: Lead by Example
This may seem like a silly answer to put because of how obvious it is, but this point can’t be stressed enough.
It is an unavoidable fact that children learn by watching their parents, so it’s important to model healthy habits yourself. Make sure you’re eating a balanced diet, staying active, and taking care of your own hygiene. When your child sees you practicing healthy habits, they’re more likely to do the same. Time and again, the “do as I say, not as I do” mentality has been proven ineffective in almost every scenario.
Sometimes, it can be helpful to involve your kiddo in healthy activities that you already enjoy. For example, if you like going for a walk in the park after dinner, invite your child to come along with you. This can serve as parent-child bonding time (which kiddos crave, especially in their younger years) and so they will develop a positive association with the healthy habit. In the end, this will make them a lot more likely to stick with it.
#2: Make it Fun
Just like when motivating ourselves to be healthy, it can be encouraging for a child to develop healthy habits if you can find a way to make them fun. For example, you can make dinnertime fun by having your child help you prepare meals,. Maybe you can create a reward system for trying new healthy foods? You can also make exercise fun by playing outdoor games or having family activities that encourage more movement.
Not sure what family activities could work? Let your child choose the activity! For example, they may prefer riding their bike or going for a swim instead of playing a sport. By letting your kiddo choose something they enjoy, they’re more likely to maintain it as a healthy habit in the future.
#3: Create a Routine
It doesn’t matter the skill or topic; routine is the key to success.
Children are even more likely to thrive on routine, so it’s important to create a consistent schedule for their healthy habits. This can include setting regular meal and snack times, scheduling daily physical activity, and establishing a bedtime routine that includes good hygiene practices like brushing teeth and taking a bath or shower.
Consistency with the routine is key. If your child knows that they have a healthy snack at 3 pm every day, they’re less likely to ask for unhealthy snacks outside of that time. Although initially it will be another thing to remember, it will become a habit very quickly. On average, it takes the brain about a month before something settles in as a habit.
#4: Get them Involved
Much like everything we try to push kids to do; we tend to find more success when we include them in the process. Encourage your child to take ownership of their own health by involving them in decision-making. Maybe you can let them choose which healthy snacks to pack for school or allow them to pick which new physical activity they’d like to try. When children feel empowered and involved, they’re more likely to be invested in whatever it is that was chosen.
You can also involve your child in grocery shopping and meal planning. Let them choose some healthy options for the family’s meals. By giving your child some control over what they eat, they’re more likely to feel satisfied and less likely to crave unhealthy foods as time goes on
#5: Provide Education
Children are bound to ask “why” when you start trying to change things around on them. Teach your child about the importance of healthy habits by providing learning on topics like nutrition, exercise, and hygiene. You can read books together, watch educational videos, or even visit a museum or exhibit that focuses on health and wellness. When children understand the benefits of healthy habits, they’re more likely to adopt them.
Your kiddo will only be able to understand a certain amount depending on their stage of development, but there are just as many resources out there for kids as there are for adults! For younger children, you can use picture books and simple explanations. For older children, you can have more in-depth conversations and provide more detailed information.
#6: Be Patient
As with all good things, developing healthy habits for you and your children takes time and patience. It’s important to celebrate small successes along the way and not get discouraged if your child doesn’t immediately embrace the changes you’re trying to make. Consistency is key, as we said before, so keep encouraging your child to make healthy choices and eventually, they will become natural.
This required patience will apply to both you and your child. If you find that they are wavering because it’s hard or difficult, help them understand the importance of delayed gratification. It always feels like a lot in the moment, but we aren’t able to go backwards and miss our mistakes. Better to have a little bit more discipline now than to have larger health problems in the future!
Well-Rounded Child = Happy and Healthy Adult
Developing healthy habits is essential for a child’s overall wellbeing, and as a parent, you play a key role in encouraging and modeling those habits for your child. By following the tips above, as well as doing further research on the topic, you can equip yourself with all the information you need to start making positive changes and habits for your kiddos.
Keep in mind that healthy habits are not just about physical health, but also mental and emotional health. Encourage your child to practice mindfulness, engage in positive self-talk, and seek help when needed. By prioritizing your child’s health and wellbeing, you’re setting them up for a happy and healthy life.