Every parent on the planet wants their kids to remain as happy and healthy as possible. And in these turbulent and potentially scary times, we’re all paying extra close attention to our kids’ health. Still, in our zeal to protect our children from hurt, harm and infection, we can risk giving them the wrong attitude about their health and wellbeing. They can see their health as someone else’s problem. They can assume that you’ll always be there with a pack of wet wipes and a smile, no matter how old they get. And while we’ll love our kids every bit as much when they’ve grown up, flown the nest and started their own families, it’s never too early to start giving them a very special gift.
The gift of power over their own health.
Kids need to be empowered to make their own informed decisions about their health and wellbeing. This will likely involve a lot of frank, open and honest discussions with your kids. Some of it will be about the big things like drugs and alcohol, and some of it will be about the little things like why it’s so important to wash their hands before dinner. However, the more you educate and enlighten them, the more likely they’ll be to make their own positive health choices in the future.
Help them win the battle against bacteria with good hygiene habits
We’re all learning just how important proper hand sanitation is. And if you aren’t washing your hands properly, it doesn’t matter how much alcohol based sanitizing gel you have. Explain the importance of good hygiene habits to kids from an early age and why they play a part in everything from how you clean your home to why it’s so important to brush under their fingernails. Teach them good habits and they’ll win the battle against bacteria in the long term.
Teach them why their veggies and fruits are so important
We all know that a healthy diet is one that’s rich in natural, plant-based goodness and free of high salt, high sugar, high fat processed convenience foods. But given kids’ historical aversion to veggies, it’s important not just to explain the importance of nutrition in good overall health but to make delicious vegetarian recipes.
The plant kingdom is full of nutritious foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber and healthy fats. Everything the human body needs in childhood, adolescence and adulthood. The recipes you teach them today will not only show them that healthy food can be fun and satisfying but that it can be quick and easy. As such, they’ll go into adulthood always knowing how to throw a nutritious meal together.
Let’s talk about sex
Absolutely no parent relishes the idea of having conversations about sex with their child. But the truth is that if you leave the conversation until they’re already teenagers it may be too late. Sex is the most natural thing in the world, and sweeping it under the rug can only help to create a sense of mystery and intrigue around this grown up activity. As uncomfortable as it may be, talking to them frankly, honestly and early can empower them to make better informed decisions in their adult lives. This can include everything from explaining why condoms are important to knowing the six locations in the neighborhood where they can get tested for sexually transmitted infections. Yes, it’s embarrassing. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. But sex is every bit as natural a human function as eating. We teach our kids why it’s important to wash their fruit and veggies and make sure their food is cooked properly prior to eating. This is no different.
Give them a balanced diet of activities
Video games are fine. As are social media platforms (so long as kids know how to be smart and safe). As are any other activities which kids enjoy indoors. So long as they’re part of a balanced diet of activities. While parents may worry about their kids over-indulging with games consoles, computers and electronic devices, what’s really important is teaching kids the value of moderation in these activities (as in many other things). Families who are active, take walks together, play games together and enjoy a range of outdoor activities together rarely need to worry about their kids becoming couch potatoes.
It’s never too early to start talking about mental health
Finally, it’s all too tempting to assume that kids don’t experience mental health issues in the same way that we adults do. But childhood (especially adolescence) can be a stressful, anxious and depressing time, regardless of quality of life. It’s never too early to start talking with your kids about mental health. The better informed they are, the better placed they’ll be to put their own infrastructure in place to safeguard their psychological well being.