Raising Healthy Kids

One of our main aims as parents, is raising healthy kids.

raising healthy kids

But what exactly do we mean by “raising healthy kids”?

And how can we instil these habits into our children – without starting World War Three?!

Raising healthy kids is so much more than just making sure they are exercising and eating right. While these are definitely important, a healthy lifestyle incorporates so much more than this. Physical, mental and emotional health are all important, if we want to make sure we are raising healthy kids. Healthy lifestyles are all about balance and ensuring that we get enough of each key component.

There are a number of important factors that contribute to raising healthy kids:

Sleep

Sleep is critical to healthy development and growth. In today’s world, sleep appears to have become “optional” and something we only do when we have finished everything else that needs to be done.

However, recommendations suggest that school-aged children need between 9-12 hours of sleep per day; toddlers need 12-14 hours per day; and babies 14-15 hours per day. Children that are sleep-deprived can often become irritable and moody, find it harder to concentrate, and can even get sick more frequently as lack of sleep can lower immune systems.

Tips for parents:

  • Try to set regular bedtimes and wake times. Consistency will help develop routine;
  • No electronics in bedrooms. This can result in children staying up all night on computers rather than sleeping;
  • No caffeinated drinks or sugar 3 hours before bed;

Diet

Diet is directly linked to physical health and a person’s ability to get the most out of life. Given the increasing levels of obesity in children, it is essential that parents try to encourage their children to form healthy eating habits. However, parents also need to be mindful that media pressure today is extremely powerful. Many children aspire to look like the unattainable images they see on TV and in magazines, which can sometimes lead to young people developing eating disorders.

Tips for parents:

  • Keep healthy foods/drinks in the fridge and serve healthy meals;
  • Try to eat meals together so you can ensure your child is eating enough;
  • Talk to children about the importance of eating well and the consequences of over/under eating;
  • Eat well yourself – research shows children model what their parents eat;
  • While occasional snacks are fine, phase out excessive junk food where possible and replace with healthy alternatives.

Exercise

Exercising regularly is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Physical exertion helps to build a strong body and mind, and exercising releases endorphins which make us feel good. It is well documented that regular exercise is a great way to manage mood and reduce stress. For children, it is thought that getting at least one hour of physical activity a day is vital.

Tips for parents:

  • Try to limit computer/TV use to 2 hours per day so that children can engage in other activities like exercise;
  • Try to make exercise fun – look at team sports your child might enjoy, or find something you can do together.

Relationships

Having good relationships with friends and family is important for maintaining emotional health. Young people need others around them, people they can talk to and trust. Often children choose to engage in isolating activities (such as watching TV, playing Xbox etc,) which takes time away from building and maintaining the relationships that they really need.

Tips for parents:

  • Share time with your children and do things together that you both enjoy;
  • Encourage your child to develop strong friendships at school/through clubs, and actively encourage them to spend time on weekends with these friends.
  • Respect your child and listen to their opinions. You may not always agree but let them learn and grow.

Play/Leisure

Everyone needs to spend time doing things they enjoy, laughing and relaxing. Whether it’s reading a good book, playing a computer game, or hanging out with friends, taking time every day to do fun things is important for our health. For younger children, unstructured, imaginary play has also been linked with increased intellectual, physical, social and emotional wellbeing.

Tips for parents:

  • Encourage children to have a wide range of hobbies and interests;
  • Play with younger children and get involved in their imaginary games;
  • Allow them to spend time doing things they enjoy (eg playing Xbox) for short periods in the day even if you don’t agree with their choice of hobby.

Drugs/Alcohol/Smoking

Older children often encounter peer pressure to experiment with drugs, cigarettes and alcohol. While wanting to try new things is developmentally appropriate, due to their addictive nature, these substances can be hazardous and can lead to lifelong habits.

Tips for parents:

  • Try to have open conversations with your children about substance use, and create an environment where they feel able to talk to you about this topic;
  • Avoid the temptation to exaggerate the dangers (or you may be discounted);
  • Be a role model – try to set a good example, and model good substance use behaviour;
  • Try to build positive self-esteem by praising your children and encouraging them when they are doing well. This may reduce the likelihood of them needing to use substances to feel better about themselves.

If you are looking for some fresh ideas, or have been facing some challenges to your goal of raising healthy kids, I welcome you to book an appointment with me.

Ashley Cooper PsychologistAuthor: Ashley Cooper, B Psych (Hons), M Psych (Clinical), MAPS.

Brisbane Psychologist Ashley Cooper has clinical psychology training, and works children, adolescents and adults. She is passionate about helping individuals to overcome their mental health issues and improve their quality of life.

To make an appointment with Ashley Cooper Psychologist, try Online Booking – Mt Gravatt or call (07) 3088 5422.