Authored by Amanda Henderson
Parenting has so many rewards, but it also comes with its challenges. When parents model behaviors that encourages trying new things and keeping our mind and body refreshed, both the parent and the child learn to be more resilient over the years. I have the honor of featuring an article by Amanda Henderson of Safe Children who provides valuable tips so parents can continue to keep their children safe and healthy.
As parents, sometimes it’s hard to find the line between teaching good behaviors and micromanaging your kids. Don’t stop trying; helping your children adopt beneficial eating and lifestyle patterns is one of the greatest gifts you can give them.
Encourage Kids of All Ages to Try New Foods
Parents often want to prompt their children to take a bite until the child does so, but this strategy is actually not so great for promoting healthy eating. Let your small child eat at his or her own pace and try whatever foods appeal at that moment, and use positive reinforcement strategies when you see the child attempting to try new tastes or textures on his or her own.
You could just ban junk foods from the house, but this wouldn’t promote the healthy eating paradigm you are trying to get across. Explain to them this type of food isn’t a healthy choice for their growing bodies, but don’t be afraid to relax sometimes and allow their favorite fast food or sodas as treats as you would with ice cream.
Incorporate Exercise Into Your Life at Home
Showing your teenager how to use the treadmill in the spare bedroom can be productive — if your teen is motivated to exercise in the first place. Resist the urge to make comments about weight or fears of weight gain, and try not to bring up medical conditions like heart disease and high cholesterol as a reason to get your kids to take up a sport or start exercising.
While it’s true that exercising keeps your body and mind healthy, teaching your kids to be afraid that bad things will happen if they don’t exercise and eat the right foods isn’t a healthy way to motivate them. Use a positive approach (which is also a good thing to teach your children about!) and incorporate exercise naturally. Take the stairs when you can, play active games, and encourage behaviors such as family walks after dinner.
Model Healthy Behaviors for Your Children
The best way to encourage your children is often with actions rather than words. Study up on the foods you need to consume to keep your own body healthy and commit to serving a wide range of options for your family. If you want your children to start exercising, go on bike rides or throw a frisbee with them in the yard after school.
Similarly, if you would like your children to take their academics seriously, start conversations with them about what they want to be in the future and discuss with them how they could begin to achieve their dreams now. Consider your own dreams as well; if you’ve put off a higher degree for the sake of raising your family, it may be time to revisit that goal. Several degree options — especially those for teachers, social workers, and nursing professionals — allow online learning and flexible formats that allow working adults to go back to school, change their career paths, and attain advanced degrees.
Parenting is a nearly lifelong job that takes work, and it’s important to keep in mind that you don’t have to be a perfect parent to be a good one. Start encouraging healthy eating, exercising, and showing your kids by example how to structure their lives to enhance their health today.
Regardless of age, we all should listen to and implement Amanda’s sound advice. If you would like to connect with Amanda, she can be found at Safe Children.