How to Help Your Child Develop Healthy Habits
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As parents, all our efforts are concentrated on raising our children to be independent, kind and educate them beyond academic knowledge.
Children have the immense capacity to absorb and learn, making it a very healthy process of teaching and helping them create healthy habits.
Encouraging your child to develop healthy habits, right from the beginning allows them to learn and make it part of their everyday life.
Habits and Why Should We Follow Them?
As adults we can clearly differentiate between good and bad habits. Eating a balanced diet, sleeping well, exercising regularly, etc. are good habits. But have we ever questioned why we follow them, or why it is considered the ideal way of living? The answer to this question is straightforward. Following good habits and a healthy routine leads to mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. Healthy habits are essential to live a healthy and wholesome life.
While healthy habits are not easy to develop, it is a great practice to start from the formative years of every child. Children as they say are like wet cement, impressionable and live by example.
Hence it is the efforts of the parents to lead by example and show them the right way to live their lives. While we are all striving to raise our child in the best possible way, let’s note down a few important points on how to create the right kind of environment to nurture their intuitive and adaptive brains.
What You Will Learn
Developing Healthy Habits
As mentioned earlier, children learn a lot from their parents. Hence parents need to create a healthy environment home right from eating habits, physical activity, and positivity. All these attributes will help your child develop healthy habits from the beginning. For example, a child raised in a home that eats a healthy balanced diet is not prone to be a picky eater. Hence before parenting your child, it is vital to parent yourself to build an inspiring and nurturing lifestyle for your child.
Teaching your children healthy eating habits is a great way to ensure your child leads a healthy lifestyle. As per the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, “Healthy eating in childhood and adolescence is important for proper growth and development and to prevent various health conditions. The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that people aged 2 years or older follow a healthy eating pattern.”
Creating a palate for healthy and nourishing foods will enable your children to open to nutritious options instead of junk food. Begin with simple eating routines like having a proper breakfast in the morning. While breakfast is the most important meal of the day, make it a habit of preparing a healthy and fulfilling breakfast every morning for your child. Skipping breakfast has a lot of adverse effects on the health like increase in fat storage and raise in blood sugar levels.
Encourage dinner time with the family to monitor their portions as well as discourage unhealthy and untimely snacking. Introduce various fruits and vegetables in their meals to develop a liking towards all good and healthy food options. Hence ensuring your child has a balanced meal every day, which in turn is becoming a life-long healthy habit in the process. Children who grow up with a healthy attitude towards food grow up to be healthy and physically fit individuals.
As much as eating right is important, having a good physical activity routine in your child’s life is another great habit to instill at a young age. As per research by The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition, “Regular physical activity will help children and adolescents improve cardiorespiratory fitness, build strong bones and muscles, control weight, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and reduce the risk of developing health conditions such as cancer, Type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, High blood pressure, Obesity and Osteoporosis.” Apart from this other benefit include longer attention span, good social skills, and develop a healthy competitive nature.
Children have a lot of energy and if directed well can help them benefit in many ways. While the benefits are many, it is important to understand their sensibilities and make it a fun process. Not all children are inclined towards physical activity and sports.
So, first try and understand what activity could make your child look forward to it rather than resent it. Introduce as many options as possible for your child to help them pick and choose the one that excites them the most.
Get your child habituated into maintaining a well-rounded schedule right from the beginning helps create a sense of responsibility towards their tasks. For instance, scheduling television time and reading time in your child’s routine will ensure they approach both the activity with the same enthusiasm. Not maintaining a balanced schedule can have adverse effects like attention deficiency, performance in school, obesity, emotional and social disorders.
If your child is watching a lot a television, then the time to play or read is limited and often skipped. And one thing leads to another in this vicious cycle.
On the contrary, reading can help your child learn faster, score good grades, help build their self-esteem and be successful in their careers. So, inculcate a healthy reading habit in your children, by letting them choose their favorite reads and not make it feel like homework. Hence it is essential to make learning a fun and interesting process rather than a forceful one.
Positive thinking is a great attribute to teach your child early on in their lives. Being positive is a virtue which helps look at the brighter side of things. Children do not have the ability to do so until we as parents or teachers stimulate them in that direction.
It is very easy for a child to be discouraged when things don’t go their way. Teaching them to learn from failures and deal with negativity in a constructive way will help build strong individuals with good relationship with others.
However, maintaining a positive and healthy environment at home is the first step in the process. Encourage positive behavior, talk to them about failures and how to accept them. Work with them to shape a positive perspective on life, dissuading them to be resilient.
Developing Social Skills
Why is it so important to teach your child lessons in developing good social skills, one may ask? Social skills allow your child to learn and grow while understanding the dynamics of the environment they are exposed to. Studies show that socialization and communication allow children to learn to be confident, independent, empathetic and disciplined. Social skills do not only help with inter-personal relationships but also is a great skill in any professional career.
According to What To Expect, “Socialization is a loaded term because it means a lot more than just setting up a playdate. Babies socialize starting from birth with Mom, Dad, caregivers, siblings and the cashier at the grocery store. They begin to take social cues and understand how the world around them works based on everyday life. Putting your baby in different social situations teaches her to be adaptable and to go with the flow.”
So, start by teaching your child kindness, good manners and empathy. For instance, encouraging your child to share toys with a sibling or a friend, will help them understand the dynamics of caring for others. These traits will enable the child to understand others and treat them well. These are the foundations laid by you which will enable your child to mingle with the people in their environment with ease and confidence.
Communication which is divided into listening and conversing is a skill that children develop very early on in their lives. A baby’s first communication begins with crying for food, sleep or comfort.
Newborns learn to communicate by picking sounds from their environment like mother’s voice, gestures or facial expressions. They learn to communicate in a natural progression by learning to greet, taking turns while talking or even emoting to the situations like laughing at jokes, sharing their toys, etc.
The key is to involve them in interactive conversation and other activities that encourage communication. Arrange playdates or activity classes which will help your child to meet and interact with other children their age.
Ideas to develop their flair for communication:
Creating such opportunities for your child to socialize will help them develop their vocabulary and knack for communication. It will also help deal with the social issues related to the child like shyness or social anxiety and be equally comfortable in other's company.
Children learn to be empathetic very early in their development which can nurture them into empathetic adults. Empathetic children learn to be kind, respectful and understanding towards everyone. Signs of empathy in children have been tracked to as young as 8-10 months of age. While empathy is not a trait everyone is born with but can be fostered by parents, caretakers, and teachers.
For instance, crying if others are in pain or being compassionate when others are upset are basics of being empathetic. Children with their ability to be empathetic at a very early age can be nurtured into being empathetic individuals. You can be their role model by being understanding and valuing their feelings.
If you gave someone your shoulder to cry on, be sure that your child will follow your approach when someone is sad. Evaluate feelings with your child to understand how they perceive a situation and then guide them accordingly. However, creating a loving and positive environment for your child at home is crucial as it will help them be emotionally strong and sensitive at the same time.
Curiosity is the holy grail of knowledge. It’s a constant thirst for them to know and understand the world that they are living in and how everything functions. A young child is exposed to a whole new world with tastes, smells, experiences, places and people. The learning curve is at the highest point in this stage of their lives. The reason they are excited about going to a zoo or eating a new flavor of ice-cream is that they are curious and wish to be familiar with the ‘new’ experience.
Why do children ask so many questions? The questions indicate their level of curiosity about the subject. Children with curious minds can make the most of the surroundings by learning and drawing inspirations. As parents create opportunities in the form of fun learning exercises, books, shows, and peer groups.
Encourage their curiosity by appreciating their efforts to learn new things. Participate equally in their quest to understand the world around them. While learning is a lifelong process, building a great foundation will help them in the entirety of the process. It will help them utilize and guide their curiosity while creating academically and socially driven individuals.
In order to be a successful member of the human society it is very important to understand the dynamics of the same. Children who are constantly learning about their environment are also understand and acquiring social competencies in the process. Traits such as greeting someone appropriately, being empathetic towards others or simply learning to coexist, coherently. Social competence is the effective and appropriate way of human interactions and relationships.
The role of parents and educators in influencing the social competence among children is primary. Helping children develop social competence and demonstrate positive relationships before they join school, helps them in approaching a healthy trajectory of social and emotional development. This attitude in children will help them solve their interpersonal conflicts, make friends, learn adjustment and achieve academic success.
While our aim is to help them acquire social competence for a happy and successful life, it is very important to give them a secure and loving environment. Children who have great relationship with their parents are better amped to solve social problems, have empathy for others, and show less signs of loneliness.
Study shows that children coming from secure homes show more signs of generosity towards others. Hence while raising your children to be good human beings, it is very important for them to feel secure and loved at the first place.
Children should be thought of respecting themselves as a primary step towards accomplishing the task of teaching social skill set. Teaching your child self-respect allows them to value their presence and their thoughts and actions. Such individuals show a great sense of confidence and positivity.
The positive outcomes of this exercise are they take rational decisions, share and care, cooperate, patience, accept differences, focus on accomplishing tasks and no display of negative emotions like fights, bullying, etc.
Children raised to respect themselves, learn to respect everyone in their environment. They treat and feel equally about others. There is no room for negative connotations or feelings about others which could lead to many negative emotions like jealousy, anger or bullying.
So, children who come from difficult homes often show negative traits and treating others the way they have been treated or worse. Hence start acknowledging children as responsible individuals with self-esteem, confidence and respect to develop a growth environment.
Parents, while teaching your children to develop good and positive social skills, allow them to be children and act their age. Do not always impose they only do the right things. If they are angry with a friend or, hit someone while playing, let them demonstrate that behavior.
Your approach should be to talk to them and make them realize both sides of the situation and not loose their cool or blame them. This will help the child understand the situation in a wholesome manner instead of creating negative feelings about the person or situation.
Teach your child social skills and how to create good healthy habits in language they understand, which is through games, books, shows, friends and travel. Let them look forward to subconsciously develop and hone their social skills.
Lectures, scolding or punishments will make them very passive about the situation and in the long run will hamper their social development. So be patient, kind and playful while dealing with your child and most importantly live what you preach and your child will follow your guidance.
Roselin Raj is a journalist and a writer. She has been writing extensively on health and wellness related topics for a little over a decade now. Besides her professional interests, she loves a game of basketball or a good hike in her free time to fuel her spirits. “Health is wealth” is one motto of life which she lives by as well as advocates to every reader who comes across her blogs.