Helping your kids make good, healthy decisions is tricky. You can do everything in your power to set strict rules about a healthy lifestyle, but they are going to have plenty of opportunities to break them as they get older. Instead of worrying so much about setting the right rules, you should perhaps focus on creating the right environment at home, one which prepares them for responsible choice-making when they are older.
Make Home a Safe Space
It is hard to guide your children toward making good choices if they do not feel comfortable talking to you about their dilemmas. You want your child to see home as a positive space where they are welcome to express emotions, thoughts, and ideas. For this, you need to be supportive and available. It is crucial that you remain open to listening to your children about their issues. Neglecting this can lead to your children not listening to you and your advice, or to them choosing not to share their problems with you at all.
The idea of a “safe space” also includes physical hazards. Make sure potentially harmful adult belongings (tools, chemical products, prescription drugs) are stored safely out of reach of your children. Introduce these items slowly when they are old enough to understand their use.
Set a Good Example
The best way to make sure your kids develop healthy habits is for them to see you engaging in them. Telling them to eat well, exercise, and manage their mental health when you are not doing these things will appear hypocritical even to younger children.
Make sure food at home is healthy and balanced, and teach your kids to cook tasty food that is good for them from a young age. The BBC has a handy guide to cooking skills you can introduce at every age. You can also support their immune system by having them take a kid-friendly multivitamin. Look for a vitamin that has vitamin C and D and probiotics.
You should also set a good example in your consumption of alcohol. Drinking occasionally and casually is fine and, in fact, encouraged — children who grow up in alcohol-free environments are 67 percent more likely to engage in dangerous binge drinking in their first year of college. However, do not get excessively drunk in front of them and never drive after having a drink.
Teach Them to Manage Stress
Children nowadays are under a huge amount of stress. Many children report worrying too much, and kids in high school are taking on far more work than previous generations due to an increasingly competitive job market. The earlier to teach them to handle stress, the more likely they are to make good choices about how to handle it later in life.
Fortunately, there are many all-natural supplements children can take to help deal with anxiety and stress. In fact, many parents have turned to CBD oil in the form of gummies, which children often find more palatable than taking the oil itself. Also, magnesium and passionflower have also proven to be helpful for children with excessive anxiety.
It’s not just their stress you should be worried about. According to the Guardian, parents’ stress could have a negative impact on children’s health. This applies not just to their mental health but to physical symptoms like elevated temperature and illness.
Focus on making your home a stress-free environment. This includes being available to talk through their problems and not overwhelming them with extracurricular demands. Try to foster a love of healthy stress-relieving behaviors from a young age. These include creative hobbies, spending time outdoors, and exercise. This will increase the chances of your child turning toward one of these in their downtime rather than digital screens.
You can try to force your kids to eat their vegetables, tell them sugar is bad for them, hide the existence of drugs and alcohol, and sign them up for a variety of extracurriculars to keep them moving. However, these are all decisions you are enforcing on them. In the long run, none of those things are going to help them feel empowered to make those decisions themselves. Communication, education, and setting a positive example are the best ways in which you can guide your kids towards being healthy adults.
Photo credit: USDA