Children are usually full of life, energy and optimism. But at such a young age they’re also susceptible to bad habits and illnesses. Because of this, it’s important that we do our best to teach children how to lead a good and healthy life.
When it comes to health, there are three major areas to consider: physical health, mental health and emotional health. Because there’s so much to keep track of, you should always seek the help of professionals whenever you feel it’s necessary. You should regularly speak with the family doctor (or your NDIS provider) and check in with a child counsellor every once in a while.
That being said, health concerns just don’t go away when you leave the doctor’s office. You also need to make sure that your child is doing the right things at home as well. To help you do this, here are five simple ways to improve your child’s health.
1. Teach them to ask for help
For many children, asking for help can be difficult. They might feel ashamed that they need help or they might even feel like a burden to those around them. This makes them unwilling to share their emotions, which in turn might lead to social isolation and feelings of loneliness. Later on in life, they might even develop unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance abuse or avoidant behaviour.
It’s important to let your child know that it’s okay to ask for help. You can do this by asking them how they feel, giving them support without judgement or, if they’re a little older, giving them information about where to get help.
For certain children (and for teenagers in particular), talking to parents about personal issues can be an awkward experience. Because of this, it’s best to try to find a professional who can help you and your child sort out any emotional or mental health issues. We recommend seeing your GP so that you can be referred to a reliable child counselling service provider.
2. Encourage healthy eating habits
Nowadays, it’s never been easier to get foods that are highly processed and packed with additives. Unfortunately, this convenience has exposed children to an excess of sugary treats and processed products. Even worse, the consumption of these foods only increases their cravings for it. The more they consume, the harder it becomes to stop. If they maintain this type of diet, they’ll have an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer in the future.
Because of this, it’s important that you help your child build healthy eating habits. When you go shopping, make sure you buy a variety of fruits and vegetables. It is generally recommended that children get at least two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables each day. When it comes to drinks, try to get them to stick to water. Beverages like sodas, energy drinks, and even bottled fruit juice contain a lot of sugars and should be consumed in limited quantities.
It’s also important to teach your child about oral hygiene. Every day, they should be brushing their teeth in the morning and at night. They should also floss their teeth once a day and visit a dentist every half a year or so.
3. Encourage regular physical activity
Make it a goal for you and your child to get around 30 to 60 minutes of exercise each day. For some children, the easiest way to do this is to introduce them to a sport that they might enjoy. Getting them into a sport where they can meet new people and improve their skills is a great way of getting them to be physically active. Football, basketball and cricket are popular sports for children. For teenagers, they might enjoy something like distance running or rowing.
You can also include physical activities in your family bonding time. For example, maybe you can get your children to go on a hike with you while you’re on vacation. Perhaps you can also encourage them to go biking with you during the weekends.
On the flip side, you should do your best to limit your child’s screen time. Screen time includes computer use, video games and smartphones. Unfortunately, nowadays, plenty of children’s apps are specifically designed to be addictive and time-consuming. A lot of mobile games, for example, reward its users for playing every single day. If you’re not careful, your child can easily fall into a bad habit of playing games for hours on end. This can lead them to neglect their physical health and their studies.
That being said, it’s important to give them some screen time as well. In this day and age, most of the younger generation use online gaming and digital communication as a way to catch up with friends. Indeed, this method of communication has become even more prominent due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
4. Encourage positive self-talk
Our brains are most malleable during childhood. As such, our experiences as a child often shapes the adult that we will become. If we grew up in an environment where we were always put down for our opinions, we will most likely grow up with a low-esteem and inability to speak our minds.
With this in mind, you should always promote positive self-talk in your children. When you hear them say negative things about themselves, make sure to bring it to their attention. Ask them why they think that way. You should also show them why their negative perception of themselves may not be true. This is a good time to remind them of their past accomplishments.
Additionally, you should also acknowledge the good things that they do, even if it’s expected of them. If they completed their chores or if they pass a test at school, make sure to praise them and their work ethic.
That being said, you do need to be careful about complimenting your child about external achievements. If you do it too much, they might attach their identity to their victories. When they inevitably fail later down the line, it might be a huge blow to their sense of self. Because of this, it’s also important to let your child know that it’s okay to fail sometimes.
5. Family time
To ensure that you have a positive relationship with your child, try and get as much family time as possible. Sharing as much time together will make them feel closer to you and, hopefully, more comfortable to share their emotions with you as well.
There are a variety of simple activities that you can do with your child. You can go on a yearly vacation together, go on long-weekend road trips or join a community sport. Even something as simple as eating dinner together can do wonders for your relationship.
Hopefully, this helped you better understand how to improve your child’s health. If you have further questions or any other concerns, you should talk to your GP or paediatrician. For mental health concerns, you should get a referral from your doctor or see a child psychologist directly.