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Dr. Andrew Rynne
Dr. Andrew Rynne

Family Physician

Exp 50 years

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Article Home Children's Health Healthy habits in children

Healthy habits in children

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Part of your responsibility as a parent is to teach your children how to lead healthy lives now and when they are adults. The best time to start teaching these lessons to children is when they are young, before unhealthy choices become bad habits. When you pass on healthy habits to your kids, it is important to practice what you preach. Just telling your kids what to doif it wont work? they need to see you choosing healthy behaviors too.

The following are some ways to help your kids avoid unhealthy behaviors.

Poor nutrition and lack of physical activity:

The children are eating too many high-fat, high-sugar foods and are spending less time being physically active. Weight problems that develop during childhood can lead to weight-related illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes later in life.

What can I do?

  • Pay attention to the kinds of food you buy. Limit the amount of “junk food” your kids eat. Instead, have plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables available. Be aware that even low-fat foods may include unwanted ingredients such as added sugar.
  • Serve a variety of healthy foods and use appropriate portion sizes.
  • Encourage your child to drink plenty of water or milk instead of empty-calorie fruit drinks and soda.
  • Limit the amount of time your children spend watching television, using the computer or playing video games.
  • Make physical activity part of your family’s routine. Take a walk, visit the community pool or go for a bike ride together. Encourage your children to participate in extracurricular activities.
  • Tobacco, alcohol and other drugs:
  • Kids may become curious about drugs at a young age. In fact, many children have already tried alcohol and marijuana by the time they reach middle school. The sooner you start talking to your kids about the dangers of using tobacco, drinking alcohol and using other drugs, the more likely it is that they will avoid them.

What can I do?

  • Make it clear that your children are not allowed to smoke cigarettes, chew tobacco, drink alcohol or use other drugs. Establish clear consequences if these rules are broken.
  • Explain how these substances can hurt your children’s bodies. Encourage them to ask questions. A true story may get your children’s attention more effectively than facts and statistics. Give them real-life examples of people who have experienced negative consequences from using alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.
  • Talk to your kids about peer pressure. Role-playing can prepare them to say no if they are offered cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, alcohol or other drugs.
  • Know your children’s friends and their friends’ parents. Always ask your kids where they’re going, what they’re doing, who will be there, when they will return and how you can reach them. Let other parents know the rules that you expect your kids to follow.
  • Set a good example. Pay attention to how your behaviors may affect your children. For example, when they see you using tobacco, it may send them the message that it’s OK for them to use tobacco, too.

Risky sexual behavior:

Each year, approximately one million teenage girls will become pregnant. Three million teens will get a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Even though it may seem embarrassing, you need to talk to your children about the risks and responsibilities of being sexually active. Don’t simply depend on the sexual education taught in schools. You play an important role in helping your kids understand sex in terms of love, intimacy and respect.

What can I do?

Offer age-appropriate information. A good rule of thumb to follow with younger children is to answer questions about sex when they bring them up. With an older child, you can discuss STDs and other risks of being sexually active and how to minimize those risks. It’s important to talk about this even if your expectation is that your kids will not be sexually active.
Be honest with your children about your family's values, opinions and expectations about sex. You may want to ask your family doctor for help in talking to your kids.

Think about the messages about sex that your children get in school, on television or in movies. Talk to your kids about these messages and encourage them to ask questions.
Keep an open mind. If your kids are afraid of how you will react, they’ll be less likely to talk to you when they are feeling pressured, unsure or concerned about issues relating to sex.