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Becoming a parent is one of the best experiences in the world, but there is no doubt that it is also one of the toughest. Trying to bring up your kids in the right way is a big challenge. Life in the digital age brings its own issues for parents, as kids are exposed to so much outside influence from social media and the internet in general. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children are exposed to as many as 3,000 advertising messages each day through the television, magazines, billboards, and the internet. Many of these advertisements feature sodas, chocolate, fast food, and candy. With so much exposure to influence from external sources, it is more important than ever for kids to have positive role models in their lives, and to see the people around them modeling healthy behaviors.
Every parent wants to equip their kids with the tools they need to live a happy and healthy life as an adult. One of the most powerful methods that you have available to help with this is by being a healthy role model yourself.
A Positive Relationship with Food
Many people; both adults and kids, can struggle to maintain a healthy relationship with food. For many adults, their eating habits stem back to childhood and the part that food played in their lives when growing up. For some, food may have been used as a punishment and a reward. For example, getting candy as a reward for being well-behaved or not having dessert if their behavior has been bad. The use of food as both a punishment and a reward is something that many people remember from their childhood, and while it may seem harmless, it can distort people’s view of food, and also lead to a strong emotional connection between food and feelings. The positive feelings associated with certain foods is one of the reasons that people reach for foods such as ice cream and cookies when they feel sad and crave comfort food.
Having a positive relationship with food and enjoying a balanced diet is vital to health. Helping your kids to get their relationship with food off to a healthy start should help them to form positive habits that will then stick with them throughout their lives.
Food plays a massive part in family life; special occasions and family meals at the end of a long week are just some of the ways that food helps families to connect with each other. Showing your kids that food is something that should be celebrated rather than feared sets a positive example.
Making Healthy Choices
Some parents ban treats from the home and restrict the number of calories that their kids eat to prevent them from overindulging. However, making some foods off-limit and bringing attention to your child’s weight can cause problems such as poor body image, and an unhealthy relationship with food in the future. Labeling foods as either good or bad encourages kids to see ‘bad’ foods as naughty treats, which can make them all the more appealing.
Rather than labeling foods as good and bad, It may be better to focus on the benefits of eating a varied diet and the way that food choices fuel the body with the energy, vitamins, and minerals that it needs to perform at its best. Focusing on the positive attributes of foods and learning how they fuel your body should help kids connect with food on a practical level. This will develop their understanding of how they can make their body feel energized and healthy by making the best food choices.
Making healthy choices also means recognizing when it is time to stop eating. Unless you pay attention to what you are eating and practise mindful eating, you may not recognize when your body feels full. Many people continue to eat beyond feeling full, which can lead you to consuming so much more food than you intended and leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable. Eating mindfully will help you to recognize the feeling of being comfortably full and the point where you should stop eating.
To eat healthily and be a positive role model, you need to introduce your kids to a range of flavors and textures of food. This can be tricky if your child is a fussy eater, but a varied diet has many benefits for kids and helps them to include a wider variety of vitamins and nutrients into their meals.
Being open to trying a range of different foods yourself, and being a positive food role model is an excellent way to help encourage your kids to eat a greater variety of meals and develop their palette. You could try bringing the kids to the grocery store with you so that they get to see a wide range of foods and let them pick out a food that they have never tried before that you can cook together at home.
It is helpful to always take a list with you when you go out to get groceries. Having a list will ensure that you don’t forget any of the essentials that you need for your meals and also helps to reduce the temptation to pick up less healthy alternatives.
Creating healthy habits around food isn’t just for the grown-ups; the whole family can get involved. Teaching kids how to cook is one of the most important skills that you can pass on to them, as they will use it for the rest of their lives. Most kids love to help with the cooking, which makes it the perfect opportunity to truly engage them with the food you are preparing. You could talk together about where the food comes from, when it is in season, how it is grown, and how you are going to use it in your recipe. When you cook with your kids, you are not only teaching them the skills needed to nourish their body; you are also helping them to understand where different food items originate from.
If your child has a good idea of where food comes from and how to prepare it, it will be far easier for them to create delicious and healthy meals for themselves in the future.
Exercising together as a family is a fantastic way to fit more activity into your day and to get every member of the household moving more. Even if you all have sports that you play separately, it is still a great idea to get together with the family for some active fun. Making exercise a regular part of your routine with the kids is an excellent way to spend quality time as a family while improving your fitness levels at the same time.
If the kids are a bit reluctant to engage with your plans for exercising together, why not let them choose the activity? Allowing each person to select a different activity each week should help to build their enthusiasm and get everyone willing to take part.
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Watch Your Words
Kids are like sponges absorbing all the information that they hear. This means that kids pay close attention to the way that you speak about yourself and other people. If you are always complaining that you are overweight or too skinny and talk negatively about your body, your child will pick up on this, and may start to look at their own body with a critical eye.
Being critical of their own and other people’s bodies is something that kids often learn from the adults in their lives. This type of thinking can lead to a negative body image and result in an unhealthy relationship with food. For some people, comments about their body in childhood can stay with them throughout their lives and play on their mind. Therefore, it is far better to focus on developing a strong and healthy body with your child rather than labeling bodies as too fat or too skinny.
Being a healthy role model to your kids goes beyond making healthy food choices. While food contributes to overall health, it is also crucial to get regular health checks and to take care of every part of your body.
Scheduling in regular hearing checks and eye tests will help you to ensure that your vision stays in the best health. If you are able, you may want to try to bring the kids along with you for these checks so that they can receive a hearing check and eye exam too. If your test shows that you need glasses, they will also be on hand to help you to choose the perfect fashion frames! Getting your kids into the habit of attending regular health checks should allow them to continue to actively manage their health when they are adults. This will set them on a path to continue healthy habits and a positive attitude towards their body for the rest of their lives.