Let's face it: Being a parent is more than a full-time job; it is a lifetime obligation. For most people, it is something you really want to do your best at. In addition to ensuring your kids are healthy and happy as children, you probably also want to help them succeed as adults. Luckily the two can go hand-in-hand. While nothing is foolproof, here are seven simple things you can do with your children to help them avoid a lifetime of health issues.
Model Proper Eating Habits
If there is one thing you can do to really set your kids up for a lifetime of success, it is to encourage and model proper eating habits. For most families, this means eating a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats. However, that might not work for everyone. For example, some doctors recommend a higher protein diet for children with health conditions, such as certain types of seizures.
Take Them for Regular Medical Care
Preventative healthcare is a basic component of keeping kids healthy and ensuring they are set up for a solid future. For most families, this includes annual checkups once kids get past infancy, with more frequent ones until then. During these regular checkups, your pediatrician will check to ensure your child is meeting milestones for things like walking, talking, and motor skills. If any deficiencies are found, early intervention can help correct them quickly.
Help Them Explore Varied Hobbies
Health is more than the physical body; kids also need nourishment for social and emotional growth. Hobbies are a great way to ensure this happens. Plus, it can also help promote intellectual curiosity and creativity. For example, teaching kids to read or work puzzles involves creative thinking and learning new skills, both of which foster whole-person growth.
Encourage a Love of Physical Activity
Most kids naturally want to get up and move. While it can be hard to keep up with them most days, encouraging that love of physical activity will benefit your kids in the long run. Experts agree that most adults should be getting around 30 minutes of physical activity on most days. That is easy to do if you have a fun activity to make you want to get moving. So, go ahead and buy your kids the best baseball glove you can find and encourage their desire to play.
Teach Basic Stress Management Techniques
You might not think of kids getting stressed, but it is, unfortunately, all too common. Luckily, many children take naturally to stress management techniques. There are even programs tailored to their unique needs and situations they may wind up in. For example, some yoga studios have begun offering classes for children with or without parents. There are also several apps that older youth may find more appealing.
Skip Sugary Drinks
It is easy to say that water is the best thing to drink, but it is a lot harder to keep kids from downing sugary drinks. Skipping them at the grocery store is a great way to get started, since then you'll have to go out of your way to pick up a soda or juice when a craving hits. This one simple step can help lower the risk of certain health conditions like diabetes and obesity.
Establish Normal Sleeping Routines
The days of parents putting kids to bed before the sun goes down may be long gone, but it is still a good idea to help your children and teenagers establish a normal sleep routine. In addition to setting up a daily pattern for the household, it helps kids understand the importance of a good night's sleep. They may not like it now, but they will appreciate it later on.
The Most Common Sleep Problems
If you suspect your child isn’t getting enough sleep, he or she may have one of many common sleep problems, and it helps to know what to look for.
The most common issues children face is snoring, having trouble falling asleep, waking up multiple times during the night, resisting going to bed, obstructive sleep apnea, snoring, and heavy breathing during sleep.
How To Help Your Kids Get Enough Sleep
There are many ways to create the right environment to support your kids in getting enough sleep.
For starters, make sure they lead active lives. Ensure that they spend time outside, get fresh air every day, and are physically active.
Keeping a regular routine is also essential. Try to ensure that your kids wake up, nap, and go to bed at the same time each day.
It also helps to create a sleep schedule or a bedtime routine, for example, brushing teeth and washing hands, putting on pajamas, reading a bedtime story, and going to sleep.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also has its own program called “Brush, Book, Bed” which is worth checking out.
You’ll want to create a comfortable sleeping environment for your child, too. That means keeping just a toy or two in his or her bed, dimming the lights before bedtime, and making sure their bedroom is the right temperature and they’re dressed appropriately.
For babies, don’t feed them solids before they’re 6 months old. Although you may think this will help them feel satiated and sleep through the night, it actually has the opposite effect.
Giving a baby solids before he or she can actually digest them can lead to stomach pain and reduce the quality of sleep.
For teens, who often need to study for exams and are busy with family life, sports, activities and their social lives, it’s important to remember that they actually need more sleep, not less.
Also, high school often begins very early in the morning, so it’s important to try to encourage as early a bedtime as possible so your teenager gets enough rest. Also, don’t let your teen take sleep medicine or sleep aids as they’re not approved for children.
You’ll also want to keep screen time in check. Having devices in the bedroom, especially at night, is counterproductive. Also, don’t let them use phones, laptops or tablets at least 2 hours before bedtime.
Another important strategy is to avoid the urge to overschedule. Let your kids unwind before bed. That means no running between extracurricular activities, lessons, appointments, and playdates. Kids (and everyone else) need solid downtime to get a good night’s sleep.
Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of being a good role model. Don’t let your child see you pulling all-nighters or not getting enough sleep. Make it a priority so kids learn from the beginning how important sleep is for everyone in the family.
Being a parent is hard, but there are things you can do to help make it easier. Helping your kids to develop strong habits like a sleep routine, healthy eating habits and a love of physical activity can help them to avoid long-term health problems later in life.