We all want our kids to live healthy lives and make smart choices. Helping them develop good, solid life-long habits starts when they are young and is bolstered by modeling the behaviors we want them to emulate. For example, you can teach self-discipline through activities like sports, good eating habits, and conflict management. Read on for more ideas on how to help your children to make good choices in life.
Food and Diet
Teach your kids the mantra “all things in moderation.” Taking the approach that there are no inherently “good” or “bad” foods, a person’s relationship with food should start with the knowledge that some foods are simply healthier--and make you feel better--than others. Teach kids to read food labels, plan grocery lists, visit grocery stores and farmer’s markets, and comparison shops. According to Super Healthy Kids, involving kids in meal prep is another way to teach them how to make smart food choices. Also, discuss caffeine and sugar drinks and the physical impact too much of either can have on how they feel. Encourage water as a primary beverage of choice.
Health and Exercise
Help your kids recognize the connection between how they think and feel and the benefits of exercise and eating right. Don’t make exercise feel like a chore; instead, present it as a fun way to care for their bodies. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, kids need at least an hour of physical activity every day. Go for a bike ride, play backyard baseball, or take a twilight hike and learn about astronomy. Moon and Back offers tips for beginners, including how to buy and use a telescope.
Drugs and Alcohol
Don’t just forbid kids from experimenting with drugs or alcohol; discuss various vices and the dangers they present to users. Start with age-appropriate lessons and stick with the conversation throughout the formative years. This is also a good time to help kids make smart choices about the places they go and the people they associate with. Always make yourself available when a child needs a ride, and educate yourself about symptoms of drug use so you can spot them early.
Mental Health and Well-Being
Kids today are under a lot of stress from media overload, online and in-person bullying, and worries about their futures and the future of our planet. In addition to maintaining an ongoing and open dialogue, talk about mental health and issues like stress, anxiety, and depression. These subjects are no longer taboo or off-limits; in fact, these kinds of conversations can be lifesavers. Kids may need help to learn coping techniques and practices like relaxation meditation and breathing exercises to help them manage stress.
Personal and Professional Behavior
How people behave and act, whether with friends, family, or colleagues, says a lot about their character. Teach kids about ethics and morals and about treating others as they want to be treated. Identify bullying, racism, and microaggressions when you view media together and use the discussions as a starting place for conversations around respect. Also, model responsibility by being accountable, keeping your word, and treating others with kindness and generosity.
You can also lead by example and live out your determination to finish a lifelong goal, such as continuing your education. Maybe you’ve been putting this off because it seems you don’t have time or because it seems too daunting, but, the fact is, it’s easier than ever to enroll in an online degree or certification program. If you want to become a teacher, for instance, the University of Phoenix is a leader in online education, so check out their course offerings to start earning--or finish earning your degree.
Perhaps the most effective way to help kids develop good lifelong habits is to exemplify the behaviors you want to see and create a relationship that centers around open and honest conversation. It can be tough to talk to your kids about sex, drugs, cheating, and bullying, but staying mum doesn’t mean those things don’t exist--only that you’re out of the loop.
Lead by example, commit to openly discussing all subjects, and let your child know you are their advocate. If you need intervention in the form of child or family therapy, use it as a resource to help you grow strong, healthy, and independent kids.
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