Healthy habits are the building blocks of a happy and fulfilling life. As parents and caregivers, one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the knowledge and practice of positive health behaviors. Teaching kids about the importance of a healthy lifestyle doesn't have to be a chore; it can be a fun and rewarding experience for the whole family. In this blog post, we'll explore five friendly tips to help you model positive health behaviors for your kids.
Offer a Wide Variety of Nutrient-Dense Foods:
We all know that fruits and vegetables are essential for balanced nutrition, but convincing kids to embrace them can be a challenge. Remember that putting labels on foods as "good or bad" or "healthy or unhealthy" isn't helpful and can create shame and black-and-white thinking. Instead, remain neutral about the foods that you're offering, while prioritizing nutrient-dense options like produce, lean proteins, legumes, and whole grains. Take them to the local farmers' market and let them pick out colorful, fresh produce. Get creative in the kitchen by involving them in meal preparation.
From a young age, kids can "help" you prepare meals. Whether it is gathering the plates and utensils and setting the table, washing produce, stirring a pot, or cutting things up for you, getting kids involved in the kitchen makes it far more likely that they will be excited to try what you've prepared. You can even turn mealtime into a game by arranging fruits and veggies into fun shapes or faces on their plate. When children see you enjoying nutritious foods, they'll be more inclined to follow suit.
Stay Active Together:
Physical activity or "joyful movement" (read last week's blog post to read more on why we reframe exercise in this way) is a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle, and it's a great opportunity for family bonding. Encourage your kids to be active by planning regular family outings like hikes, bike rides, or trips to the park. Set a positive example by participating in these activities alongside them. Remember, it's not about being the fastest or the strongest; it's about having fun and staying active as a family. Dance parties in the living room, backyard games, and friendly competitions can all promote more movement in an enjoyable way.
A good night's sleep is essential for both children and adults. Show your kids the importance of sleep by establishing a consistent bedtime routine. Create a peaceful sleep environment with calming activities such as reading a bedtime story or listening to soft music. Lighting can make a big difference so it's helpful to dim overhead lights or use lamp lighting whenever possible to tell your body that it's time for sleep. Make sure to limit screen time before bed also, as it can interfere with sleep quality. When your children see you prioritize sleep, they'll understand its significance and be more likely to follow suit.
Practice Mindfulness and Stress Management:
Stress is a part of life, but it's crucial to teach kids how to manage it in healthy ways. Introduce mindfulness exercises like deep breathing or meditation into your daily routine. These practices can help children cope with stress and develop emotional resilience. When kids see you using these techniques to stay calm and focused, they'll be more likely to adopt them as well. Encourage open communication about feelings and emotions, creating a safe space for your children to express themselves.
Embrace a Positive Body Image:
Promoting a positive body image is essential for your child's mental and emotional well-being. Avoid negative self-talk and focus on celebrating what your body can do instead of what it looks like. Compliment your children on their efforts and achievements rather than their physical attributes. Body comments about yourself, their bodies, or other people's bodies, whether they are "positive" (i.e. praise for a certain look or attribute of someone's body) or "negative" (commenting about someone's body in a degrading or harmful way), aren't helpful. Encourage a healthy body image by fostering a love for regular movement and nutritious foods, rather than emphasizing weight or appearance. Children can be taught from a young age to appreciate the diversity of how we are all created differently! When your children see you embrace a positive body image, they'll learn to do the same.
Modeling positive health behaviors for kids can be an enjoyable and rewarding journey for the entire family. By making healthy habits fun and engaging, you'll not only set a great example for your children but also create lasting memories together. Remember, the key is to be consistent and patient as you instill these habits in your children. With your guidance and positive role modeling, you can help your kids develop a strong foundation for a healthy and happy life.