By Amanda Henderson
While it may not always seem like it, your children are paying attention. Keep reading for ways to
encourage your kids to make healthy choices even when you’re not there.
A healthy home
First and foremost, you need to understand that your children will emulate your behaviors. They
may not do it now. They may not do it on purpose. But they will. Your children learn from your
behaviors. If you want them to grow up making healthy choices for themselves, you must give
them an environment that encourages just that and let them see you do the same. And that
starts by making your home a stress-free zone. Redfin asserts that eliminating stress is, in part,
achieved by reducing clutter. Not only does clutter make things harder to keep clean, but it can
also reduce your children’s ability to focus on homework. Start the decluttering process by
cleaning out your closet and ask the kids to follow suit.
Dinnertime sans drama
One of the most difficult battles we parents fight are those that involve food. While some children
are content to try anything, the vast majority proceed, at best, with skepticism at anything that
doesn’t look like pre-pressed chicken nuggets. But, as Harvard University explains, children need
a variety of different foods, which all contain a unique mix of vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, and
carbohydrates. Let your children help with meal planning and preparation. Give them options and
encourage them to try new things. Once they find something healthy they like, you can introduce
other similar foods. For instance, if your child enjoys green beans, he or she may be willing to try
asparagus. A love of carrots could lead into trying sweet potatoes. The biggest piece of advice
here is to avoid the temptation to force your children to eat everything on their plate. Most
experts agree that this may lead into an unhealthy relationship with food later on.
Part of making healthy choices involves learning when to say “no,” even when it’s not a popular
answer. Peer pressure often starts as young as fourth grade, and many children give in simply
because they want to be liked. Encourage your children to be selective on who they consider a
true friend. Teach them the difference between friends and acquaintances and praise their
positive actions. Positive reinforcement will inspire them to step up as a leader.
Children’s should be exposed to at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. This is usually
in the form of play, but older children may need a little more motivation to drop the video-game
controller. Consider enrolling your child in a martial arts program or running club, or, if they are
old enough, having them apply to be a camp counselor, where they will be responsible for
helping younger children through physical activities such as swimming, hiking, and playing
volleyball. The benefits of exercise for all ages include reduced blood sugar, weight management,
and emotional well-being. Physical fitness can also reduce the temptation to use drugs or alcohol;
a healthy mind and body isn’t as likely to seek out pleasure from unhealthy sources.
With each passing day, your tween or teen will face an increasing onslaught of decisions he or
she must make without you. Talk to your children about the decision-making process. Help them
understand that choices made in haste are often the ones that bring about the most trouble.
Teach them that their actions have consequences, both good and bad. Most of all, understand
that they will make mistakes. It is not your job to judge but to use these missteps as learning
opportunities to strengthen their resolve to make more responsible choices later on.
More than anything, you need to demonstrate that you are willing to make positive choices for
yourself. Let your children see you make these decisions, such as quitting smoking or taking up
an exercise regimen. By setting positive examples and encouraging wise choices, you will help
your child better prepare for the responsibilities of adulthood.