Post by Daniel Sherwin
Parents can set their children up to be happy and successful throughout their lives by teaching them to make healthy decisions from early on. Even while they are still small, and dependent on their caregivers, you can prepare them by creating a family culture in which good choices are habitual. Here are some of the ways parents and other caregivers can guide their children towards good life habits.
Help your kids develop a taste for nutritious food.
When children eat food that is good for them on a regular basis, they learn to enjoy it. They will be less likely to be tempted to binge on junk or rely on fast food if they already prefer food that is nutritious, and minimally processed. Teach them how to prepare the foods they love and let them help you plan and cook meals. Kids who learn how to cook their own meals are more likely to make healthy food choices in the future, as they will be less limited in their options and more aware of what goes into good food. Learning to cook different meals also helps kids understand science, and practice good hygiene.
Make exercise part of your daily family routine.
If exercise is seen as something that happens only occasionally, or as an annoying chore, kids will probably cease to do it as soon as you aren’t there making them. So, help your kids enjoy exercise and seek it out by incorporating it into family life. This might involve outdoor activities like kayaking, cycling, hiking, or backpacking. Or you could get the family involved in playing backyard ball games. When you are doing your own workouts, invite your kids to join in, with modified exercises, if necessary, to suit the needs of their age and size.
Talk to your children about the challenges they may face in the world.
Remember that the world has changed since you were a kid, so the problems you had to deal with may not be the same that kids face today. Take time to get informed about what young people deal with in schools and social groups, and how you can help them. For instance, with the predominance of tech and social media, cyberbullying is now a major issue in teen and preteen cultures. Help your kids understand the dangers of drug and alcohol use, keeping in mind that some drugs young people may be tempted to abuse today didn’t even exist when you were young. It’s also important to teach your kids to advocate for themselves, set boundaries, and avoid unsafe relationships.
Help your children set and achieve goals that matter to them.
Your kids will be happier and more fulfilled if they have a clear sense of what they want to achieve in life, and how to achieve it. Even if they are still uncertain about big life plans like education and career, you can still help them clarify short-term goals and come up with plans for achieving them. If your child is interested in taking martial arts classes, for instance, help them determine which style will work for them, and see if you can find a dojo that will work for them. You can even find more helpful information about martial arts, such as how to set up your own at-home studio, at Sword Class RI.
Practice what you preach.
You probably know that “do as I say, not as I do,” is an ineffective teaching strategy. So you need to make healthy life choices yourself. Obviously, this means eating well, exercising regularly, practicing good hygiene, and prioritizing self-care. It also means modeling ethical and responsible actions in your daily life. Show your children how to pursue good goals by doing so yourself. Maybe there’s a career goal you’ve wanted to achieve or a new field of study. For example, if you have always been intrigued by information technology, you could pursue an online degree in data analytics, cybersecurity, or software development.
Remember to stay positive and use encouragement rather than shame. As your children grow and gain more independence, they’ll be better equipped to face life’s challenges even when you aren’t there to advise them.