Start Young: How To Introduce Health To Your Children
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Adults struggle to eat healthy foods despite knowing better. So obviously, getting children to eat healthy can be a mammoth of a challenge.
‘Health’ is a very wide word; what exactly does it refer to – physical health, diet, mental wellbeing, or fitness levels? The origin of the word gives us a clue. ‘Health’ is derived from an old English word of Germanic origin, meaning ‘wholeness, being whole, sound or well’. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), ‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’.
The concept of health is more than just exercise or a nutritious diet. It is a way of life. Give your children a head start, by introducing them to healthier habits from a younger age.
The most important tip while introducing any concept to children is to remember that they learn through example. So you have to follow a healthy lifestyle in order to teach them about it! Here are some tips to introduce health as an important concept, to children:
Physical health and nutritious diet:
- Encourage exercise and physical activity – Walking up a few flights of stairs instead of taking the lift can be a new game to spend more time together!
- Connect with nature – Walk through a park and try to identify different trees and flowers, or build sandcastles on the beach, rather than signing up for one activity class after another.
- Do not use doctors as a scare tactic for children – Start going to the paediatrician for regular checkups to build a rapport, and make your child feel comfortable. This will help in focusing on preventive healthcare measures, rather than disease treatment.
- Encourage children to shop for food and cook with you – Teach them about fresh ingredients and healthier options. Encourage them to learn where their food comes from.
Mental health and social wellbeing:
- Encourage hobbies – Be it outdoors like sports or gardening, or indoors such as board games or art, hobbies should always be encouraged. This helps in keeping the mind active, and also serves to release stress.
- Listen and pay attention – When children feel neglected or not heard, they start feeling insecure and may act up simply to get noticed. Look at the child when she is talking to you, keep your mobile devices away, and encourage open communication.
- Switch off the TV and background noise to lessen distraction – Limit screen time and devices to an absolute minimum. Encourage quiet time and meditation. Introduce them to basic yoga, with the help of yoga cards and animal poses.
- Encourage playtime with other children – This will teach them to resolve conflict amongst themselves, and also to share and take turns.
- Be aware of body-image related issues – There might be stereotypes that you are subconsciously propagating, such as those about becoming fat, turning older, or using abusive language in front of children. This may lead to self-esteem issues. Continually check yourself for the kind of messages you are giving out to your child.
- Try to get a pet that they can take care of – This will teach them to be responsible for a living being, as well as compassion and sympathy. Please be aware of the illegal exotic pet trade, and do not encourage it. If you can’t keep a pet at home, contact the local animal rescue shelter, and see if children can volunteer there.
Got any other tips? Share them here!