Children are both sponges and mirrors. They soak up and reflect what they see and hear. And this is particularly true when it comes to emulating the behaviors of their caregivers. Indeed, parents aren’t only a child’s first teachers, but they’re also a child’s most important role models.
So, if you want to instill healthy habits in your child, the first and best thing you can do is model these habits yourself. This article describes seven healthy habits to teach your child from an early age.
1. Putting safety first. Kids are daredevils. They lack the capacity to truly understand cause and effect, in other words, risk and consequences. The idea that they may become truly sick or injured is often almost inconceivable, even for older children and teens.
This is why teaching children to prioritize safety is of such critical importance. Because children often can’t recognize the risks around them, they’ll need you to show them how to identify and mitigate dangers. This should include education on both physical and online safety.
2. Eating well and keeping hydrated. Proper nourishment is key to keeping the body healthy and strong. Teaching your children about the body’s need for nutrients and hydration helps them to begin developing a positive relationship with food. Similarly, by modeling healthy eating and hydrating habits, you tacitly encourage children to make healthier choices whether at home, in school, or with friends.
3. Practicing preventative health. Because kids simply don’t have the capacity to anticipate or truly understand long-term consequences, they need help developing preventative health habits. They may not appreciate, for example, the ramifications of failing to take care of their oral health. However, by teaching your child how to prepare for their next dental visit, you’ll simultaneously be instilling the oral hygiene habits that are a critical component of preventative care.
4. Learning to enjoy exercise. Children today are more sedentary than perhaps they’ve ever been. This can be attributed in no small part to the proliferation of technology, which has had negative as well as positive effects on children’s lives. Teaching your children to limit their daily screen time and to integrate physical activity into their ordinary routine is a must. So ensure that you’re getting off the couch and out into the world with your child. Go for weekend hikes and nightly walks. Play touch football in the backyard. Or simply get down on the floor for a game of tickle monster.
5. Reading daily. There are few greater gifts to give your children than the gift of books. Creating a bedtime ritual that includes quiet reading, whether together or separately, is a terrific way to instill a life-long love of reading. And, as a bonus, it gets them off technology and prepared for a good night’s sleep.
6. Getting good sleep. Speaking of a good night’s sleep, proper rest is another critical health habit to teach your child early. Showing children how to practice good sleep hygiene, from limiting blue light exposure to developing a relaxing pre-bedtime ritual, will help ensure they’re getting the consistent, restorative sleep their minds and bodies need to thrive.
7. Managing stress. It’s painful to think that our children are under stress, but that’s exactly the case. In fact, kids today are under more pressure than ever before. They’re often overscheduled and overwhelmed, but they may lack the coping skills to understand, articulate, or relieve the stress they’re under. This is why teaching your child effective stress management is key to a healthier, happier kid. This should include supporting your child in changing negative thought patterns and developing fundamental problem-solving skills to better learn to conceptualize and respond to challenging situations.
Good health doesn’t just happen. It takes time, effort, and commitment. This is why parents should begin teaching their children essential healthy habits early on in order to help their little ones experience wellness in mind, body, and spirit their whole lives through.