4 Ways Parents Can Help Their Children Develop Healthy Habits

Developing Healthy Habits at a Young Age

As parents, we all want our children to be happy and healthy. Promoting a healthy lifestyle is one of the most important things a parent can do for their child. Childhood is a critical period for establishing healthy habits, and health outcomes later in life are often linked to childhood behaviors. By working together with healthcare professionals, parents can empower their children to be the healthiest and best versions of themselves.

Childhood Nutrition

Research shows that childhood dietary habits are a strong indicator of future health outcomes such as obesity and cardiovascular disease.

Over the past few decades, there has been a tremendous rise in the frequency of childhood obesity and overweight, which has turned into a serious public health issue around the globe. According to the World Obesity Federation, “Obese children and adolescents were around five times more likely to be obese in adulthood than those who were not obese.” A 2020 study by the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition reported that in children, high intakes of processed foods, sugar, and animal protein are associated with an increased risk of developing obesity, whereas a diet rich in plant-based foods promotes healthy weight.

Furthermore, a 2018 study demonstrated that a healthy diet in adolescents is associated with a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life. In particular, a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and fiber is likely to improve cardiovascular health in adulthood.

Parents can collaborate with their child’s primary care physician to develop a meal plan that satisfies their nutritional needs. These healthy eating habits reduce risk factors for chronic disease later in life.

Physical Activity

Regular physical activity during childhood years has a significant positive impact on a child’s health both in the present and later in life. Parents can play a crucial role in supporting an active lifestyle for their children.

The American Heart Association recommends that children get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. During the school day, students have opportunities to be active during physical education classes and recess. However, after school and on weekends parents have a great opportunity to increase children’s physical activity. Joint physical activity between children and their parents helps increase moderate to vigorous physical activity and enjoyment for both children and parents. Games like jumping rope and tag were some of the most enjoyable for both parties.

2019 publication by BMC Public Health stated that “physically active children are likely to become active adults; thus, active lifestyles should be promoted from childhood.” In the short term, an active lifestyle can improve a child’s academic performance and psychological wellbeing while also contributing to a healthy weight and stronger, healthier bones. These healthy habits will carry into adulthood, where regular physical activity is associated with lower risks of heart disease, dementia, cancer, and obesity.

Healthy Sleep Habits

Adequate sleep is essential for a child’s physical and mental health. Experts recommend that school-age children get 9-12 hours of sleep every day. However, according to research by the American Academy of Pediatrics, less than half of school-aged children in the U.S. get sufficient sleep on a regular basis. Insufficient sleep in adolescents is linked to mental health challenges, impaired cognitive function, and even differences in brain structure and function.

Furthermore, according to a 2017 article by the Royal College of Physicians, poor sleep habits developed in childhood years have effects that persist into adulthood. According to a 2022 article by the Connecticut Health Investigation Team, “teenagers’ poor sleeping habits will trickle into their later education and work years.” Poor sleep habits in adulthood are associated with an increased risk of chronic health problems, a loss of productivity, mental health disorders, and human error that can lead to tragic accidents.

Therefore, it’s essential that parents support healthy sleep habits in their children. Not only will children reap the benefits of proper sleep in the present, they will also be more likely to carry those healthy habits into adulthood. This will set them up for greater success in all aspects of life, from their physical and mental health to academic performance to social situations.

In general, some habits and behaviors that can help children get better quality sleep include a consistent bedtime routine, limiting screen time in the evening, avoiding caffeine, and creating a bedroom environment that is as dark and quiet as possible. Parents should consult their child’s healthcare provider for specific sleep recommendations based on their child’s age and other factors.

Supportive Environment

A child’s health is highly influenced by their parents, as children frequently adopt their parents’ habits and routines. Parents who set a good example for their children by participating in regular physical activity and eating a balanced diet can have a significant positive impact on their child’s wellbeing.

Furthermore, parental emotional support and a nurturing home environment are crucial to a child’s healthy development. According to a 2021 article by BMC public health, “children that experience more emotional support from family or social networks may have better long-term mental health outcomes and less chronic health issues as they age.” Children raised in a supportive environment are more likely to provide a positive home life for their own families.

Lastly, one of the most important ways that parents can support their children is by working closely with their child’s primary care physician. Regular check-ups are essential to identify any potential health concerns early on, stay up-to-date on immunizations, and ensure a child’s healthy growth and development.

Empowering Children to be Happy and Healthy

In conclusion, encouraging children to lead healthy lifestyles is crucial for their long-term health and wellbeing. By working together with healthcare professionals, parents can empower their children to develop healthy habits related to nutrition, physical activity, and sleep. To further support their childrens’ healthy development, parents can strive to provide their children with a supportive and caring home environment. By being mindful of these recommendations, parents can help their children achieve their full potential and live a healthy and happy life.