Being a parent is the most rewarding thing you will ever do in your entire life. The pressure to be a great parent is ever-present in every decision you make regarding that little person’s life and, from what I’ve heard, never really goes away. For those of us with kids, we are blessed beyond what words can accurately describe. The love we have for our little angels (and not so angels…) pushes us to be the best version of ourselves that we can be, we are constantly looking for new and ingenious ways to give them the best life that we possibly can. To help you on your journey into parenthood, here are 10 healthy habits to get into with your kids from today – you’ll be so grateful that you did.
1. Spend Time Outdoors
Look, I get it – switching on their favourite Netflix show is easy and sometimes easy has its place, but mind-numbing TV is not the answer. Being a parent is a great responsibility, you aren’t just creating a new life – you need to nurture it too. Trade the TV time for some time outside, fresh air and sunshine is one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity. Organise a picnic, go for a walk, plan a backyard treasure hunt…your options are almost endless. Whatever activity you choose, make you sure you are outside for at least 2 hours. Dress and prepare accordingly but, most of all, enjoy your bonding time – no one looks at the world around us quite like a child.
2. Develop A Sustainable Routine
I like to believe that most parents mean well, they really do – it’s just that sometimes life gets in the way and we fall short of the goals we set for ourselves at the onset. It’s never too late to get back into healthy routines – your child’s world is governed by certainty and routine. Set a reasonable dinner time, bath time and bed time and then stick to them! This will help your child’s internal clock and ultimately help them to lead happier and more fulfilling lives.
3. Exercise and Sports
I’m not saying you must pressure your child into being a football star or the country’s next Olympic gold medallist. That should be up to you and your child. What I am saying is that sport and exercise are a crucial part of helping your child live a healthy life. They don’t have to be any good at it but if they are then that is great! A little encouragement here goes a long way. Physical activity from a young age increases strength in muscles and bones and can even improve concentration at school. Exercise is a vital component of your child’s development and helps to lay the foundations for a healthy and happy life. This is especially important for their mental wellbeing during lockdown.
4. Limit Sugar
This one may seem like a no-brainer but I see so many kids, with their parents present, downing sodas and energy drinks (which makes my blood boil) like they’re water. This doesn’t just end with eliminating soda intake – added sugar is ghastly and EVERYWHERE. Do yourself, and your children, a favour and learn to read the labels on food and drinks. It has been proven, time and time again, that children who don’t consume added sugar are healthier and have an easier time focusing at school. Your child should not get to decide what they want to eat, that is your job as a responsible parent. Do not let their lives be ruled by sugary snacks and drinks, these are toxins to their little systems – not to mention that damage they do to teeth! Ask Dr. Alison Walsh, she will happily tell you the horrors of what happens when you consume too much sugar!
5. Embrace A Healthier Diet
This one is not just for your kids but for you too. Avoid overly-processed foods that include artificial colourants, preservatives, added sugar and trans fats. Embrace cooking meals from scratch instead of ordering in. I know that time is an issue for a lot of us working parents but there are loads of easy and healthy recipes you can try that won’t take more than 30 minutes to cook.
6. Practice Good Oral Hygiene
Teach your children to brush their teeth twice a day from a very young age. This will help prevent cavities, tooth decay as well as gum disease. Unfortunately, children’s oral health is often an overlooked component of their overall health and wellbeing. All children need to have access to preventative and treatment-based dental care from their wonderful family dentist, they will advise you on what you and your child need to focus on and they can also help you teach them how to brush their teeth properly.
7. Prioritize Sleep
Studies have shown that kids who regularly get a proper amount of good sleep have improved focus, behaviour, memory and overall better mental and physical health. If your child does not get enough sleep regularly, this can lead to serious health issues like high blood pressure and obesity. Sleep promotes growth, their little bodies secrete growth hormone during deep sleep and by removing even just 1 hour of sleep each night can lead to serious sleep deprivation.
8. Eat Breakfast
Breakfast is such an important meal, some would even argue that it is the most important meal of the day. Help your child, and yourself, by getting into the habit of eating a healthy and nutritious breakfast together every morning. Explore healthy breakfast foods like whole grain cereals, fruit and yoghurts and avoid over-processed sugary cereals. If you have time, you can make them super healthy banana flapjacks to start their day off on the right note – these can even be added to their lunchboxes for a sweet surprise!
9. Be Positive
Children as young as five can understand the principles of positive-thinking, they know that a positive thought makes you feel better and a negative thought makes you feel worse. They need to be encouraged from a young age to develop a positive attitude. I was raised to see the silver lining in every situation, to always find the bright side, and I am eternally grateful for this. I see the difference between my husband and I often – he was pretty much raised the total opposite. Whenever we hit a hurdle in life, he wants to give up and my instinct is to find a way over it. This is purely because we were taught to look at life differently when we were younger. What you teach your kids today will impact them for the rest of their lives.
10. Read to Your Kids
Set aside at least one hour a week to read to your kids again. Reading stimulates their imagination and the creativity centre in their brain. It is helps to expand their understanding of the world around them, it also assists them in developing language and listening skills which will prepare them to understand the written word when they are old enough. Remember to choose books and topics that are appropriate for their age groups. If you have never read aloud to your kids before, you may need to start slowly with just ten minutes a night and gradually extend that time according to how long your child can maintain full attention.