Written by Liza John
Eating a healthy breakfast, sleeping early or maintaining good standards of hygiene are all healthy habits we usually follow in our lives. Ever wondered where they came from? No doubt they were passed onto you by your parents or caregivers. Now it’s up to you to pass it onto your kids.
“Children learn from influences rather than commands or instructions you give.” Meaning? Your child tends to pick up habits that they see in you, this includes both good and bad habits. So, commanding or instructing your child to do something will not work unless you display those habits.
What Healthy Habits Should You Teach Your Children?
Whenever we hear the words healthy habits, we instantly think about eating healthy, exercising regularly, brushing teeth twice a day and so on. While these are important parents often overlook mental health, sexual education and talking about substance abuse.
Nutrition, Exercise, Sleep
According to the WHO, worldwide obesity has tripled since 1975. Sedentary lifestyle, increased consumption of junk food is all to be blamed equally. Inculcating a healthy lifestyle in your child ensures healthy growth, maintains healthy weight and protects your child from diabetes, obesity or cardiac problems later on in life.
Alcohol, Tobacco and Drugs
As your child grows, at some point in their lives they will come across alcohol, cigarettes or drugs. The natural curiosity in their minds fuelled by peer pressure or stress might result in what may seem inevitable. So, what can you do about it? Brushing it under the carpet does not help. You need to communicate to your child clearly that it is not ok to try alcohol, tobacco or any kind of drugs and that they shouldn’t give into peer pressure.
According to the WHO, approximately 12 million girls aged between 15-19 and 777,000 girls younger than 15 give birth each year. Apart from this almost 1 million people get affected by STIs each day. A lot of these problems can be accredited to improper sex ed, misconceptions and gender stereotypes. Do not rely on school education to teach your child about sex, sexuality and debunk myths. Start as early as you can and encourage talking about these issues. It may be awkward at first, but you’ll thank yourself later.
How Can You Pass on Healthy Habits on To Your Child?
Let us now see how you can get these habits into your child’s life.
Be A Role Model
Parents or other caregivers influence a child’s growth, development and habits the most. If you choose to eat healthy food low in refined sugar or salt, chances are your child will also develop a liking for these foods.
If you drink or smoke, never do it in front of your kids as your child might think it’s okay to drink or smoke. Word of advice, quit smoking not for you but for your child. Your child will pick up the smell of a cigarette even if you didn’t smoke in front of your child and it won’t take long for them to figure out what is happening.
Talk About It
Talk about being healthy, why your child should choose a bowl of fruit over a slice of cake or play soccer instead of Call of Duty. Encourage asking questions and answer them with reason.
Talking about sex may be weird and awkward for you but it is imperative that you talk about it without inhibitions. Educate them about consent, protection and how to deal with unsolicited sexual behaviour.
Explaining how alcohol, smoking and drugs harm our bodies is essential but so is not giving into peer pressure. Most teens start drinking or smoking due to peer pressure and teaching your child to say no will be productive.
Getting Enough Sleep
Promote sleeping early and ensure that your child gets at least 8 hours of sleep each day. Staying up late usually results in a sleep deprivation and also causes mood swings, fatigue, weakened immunity and even memory issues.
Your child may be influenced by other factors such as social media, movies, mainstream media or by other people including schoolteachers, friends or other relatives. Can you control all of these influences? Fat chance! However, you can educate your child about internet safety and basic etiquettes to be followed while using it, you can also talk about their social media usage without breaching their privacy.
You can pressurize school authorities to get creative and find ways to ingrain healthy habits in children even though they use online platforms to deliver classes. If you have relatives who smoke or drink, caution them against it when they are visiting you.
Going down this path, you may end up feeling that your child will pick up these healthy habits only when hell freezes over. Do not give up, the efforts you put in today will definitely bear fruit as your child grows up.