6 Ways to Teach Your Kids to Lead a Healthy Life

  • Dad and daughter at play
    Keeping Up With Kids' Health
    We all want our kids to be as healthy as possible, but between work, housework, homework, and all the other demands of a busy family, it can be tough to keep kids’ health a top priority. These days, a healthy lifestyle is not just about healthy eating. In our highly connected world of screens and gadgets, it also means finding ways to stay active, as well as emotionally and socially healthy. But putting healthy habits into practice is not as tough as it may seem. Sometimes it just takes some different ideas and new ways to teach our kids.

  • Boy preparing food
    1. Get them cooking.
    Finding ways to teach kids how to eat healthy is every parent’s dilemma at one time or another. One way to get them eating better is to get them in the kitchen. Experts say that by giving kids the opportunity to plan and prepare their own food, they are more likely to try new things and eat the healthier options they produce. It’s a great time to show the enjoyment of food, and explain its importance as nourishment. If time is in short supply during the week, schedule a weekend afternoon for cooking, and freeze items for the week ahead.

  • Family at dinner table
    2. Keep mealtime calm.
    Kids who take part in regular family meals have been shown to eat more vegetables, fruits and grains and fewer not-so-healthy foods and snacks throughout the day. They learn that healthy eating and slow, enjoyable get-togethers go hand in hand. Stick to a regular mealtime where the whole family is gathered around the table, and save eating with a TV show or movie for special occasions. Keep discussions light and friendly at the table so it’s a pleasant experience. Save potentially tense discussions about homework or issues at school for another time.

  • Family fun time
    3. Team up as a family.
    The average child now spends more than seven hours per day using TVs, computers, phones, and other electronic devices. That means less and less time being active. Not only can you lead the way by putting down your own devices more often, you can make it a family affair. Institute a weekly “Family Team Day,” where you get out and play a sport, do some drills, ride bikes, hike in the woods, hit the pool—whatever will motivate your kids the most. If you have children with different interests, give each a turn to pick the family team event for the week.

  • Yoga mom and baby
    4. Model movement.
    Knowing how to teach kids about exercise doesn’t take a degree in physical education. You can go far with a sense of adventure, a playful spirit, and a little encouragement. Show your kids your willingness to try something new, such as yoga, Tai Chi, or rock climbing. Turn on some favorite music while making dinner and dance around the kitchen. Talk about how regular activity is important to you and makes you feel healthy. Your kids are paying attention more than you think.

  • Dad and daughter
    5. Express yourself.
    Children are highly attuned to their parents’ moods. They need to understand--and witness--that it’s OK to be sad, frustrated, even angry, and to talk about it, not repress it, which can manifest in behavioral issues. If you’re sad, let your children know in terms they can understand so they know why you may be distant or withdrawn. If you’re angry and lose your temper, take a moment to step back and find out what’s really triggering your anger. Show your kids it’s important to say, “I’m sorry,” and to forgive yourself, as well.  

  • Mom, daughter talk
    6. Be a patient listener.
    We can’t save our children from all the social and emotional upsets they will experience in life, and we wouldn’t necessarily want to—these are valuable teaching moments. But we can be a safe landing place for when these events inevitably happen. Since kids don’t always offer up their problems, set aside time each day, perhaps at bedtime, to ask if there’s anything your child would like to talk about. Try to remain open and refrain from problem-solving. Sometimes patient listening is all our children need. By doing so, we not only teach ways to cope with life’s rough patches, but to be good listeners for others.

6 Ways to Teach Your Kids to Lead a Healthy Life

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