Helping Kids Make Healthy Choices


For many adults, childhood conjures up memories of sledding down hills, sprinting after soccer balls, or diving into swimming pools. The reality, though, is that an estimated nine out of 10 children in the U.S. consume an unhealthy diet. And the stresses that kids shoulder include body-shaming, the pressure to do drugs and bullying at school (or social media). As a parent, perhaps the best way to steer your children forward is to make sure they exercise and eat well, create a safe home for them and talk to them about drugs and alcohol.

Eating Healthy and Limiting Consumption of Coffee

Cultivating nutritional habits in your kid is vital for them to stay healthy. Throw out soda and junk food. Since they’re naturally bouncing with energy, keep them away from caffeine, which will likely give them a headache and keep them up till 3 a.m. Better to feed them delicious meals that are good for them. In fact, take it a step further and let them help out with dinner by allowing them to operate simpler appliances such as toaster ovens (modern models have very easy-to-use controls) and prepare certain ingredients using kid-safe knives. Of course, always keep an eye on your children whenever they’re lending a hand in the kitchen.

Encouraging Exercise

Encouraging your kids to stay active is as important as feeding them fruits and veggies. Most kids delight in biking around the neighborhood or playing catch in the backyard. Team sports are a great option as well, whether it’s baseball, soccer, or flag football. Just make sure to read reviews on any sports equipment you may need before making a purchase. At the same time, don’t force them into sports that they don’t want to do. Instead, find exercises that are fun to them, so that the summer nights they spent running around as a kid turns into the fitness regimen they maintain as adults.

A Stress-Free Home

Making your home a stress-free environment is imperative to instill a sense of calm in your children. Clean up all the clutter. Open up your windows to let the breeze in. Incorporate splashes of nature into the decor. (A fig tree in a woven basket in the corner never hurts.) 

Also, set a schedule and make sure everyone essentially obeys it. Abiding by the structure of waking up, going to school, doing homework and preparing for bed will instill in your kids the discipline that he’ll need as they get older. At the same time, be sure to take naps and watch movies as have barbecues as a family, so that they know that life is more than just work.

Drugs and Alcohol

The way that you should have a conversation with your children about saying no to drugs and alcohol will vary depending on how old they are. Let’s say your preschooler sees an adult smoking cigarettes and asks you about it. You might say that people don’t always make the best decisions, and it’s important for us to take care of our bodies. Now imagine your teenager comes home from a party drunk. Tell him you’re upset with the decision he’s made. Ask what happened. Then set rules and explain the consequences if those rules are broken. 

Safety at Home

Even as you’re telling your teenagers that they can’t use drugs and alcohol, you may keep a liquor cabinet stocked with your favorite bourbons. Just explain to them that they have every right to drink after they turn 21. If you have younger children, though, keep your medications in a locked cabinet that’s out of reach. The same goes for non-culinary knives, and especially guns, which you’ll want to store in a safe and secure with a device like a trigger or a cable lock.

Also, it’s not a bad idea to teach your children how to operate the home security system. This is especially beneficial when they’re home alone; instead of opening the door for a stranger, for example, they can use a smartphone or tablet app to check things out via the smart doorbell. What’s more, you can remotely monitor your home to keep an eye on the kids while you’re out.

As a parent, your job is to help navigate your kids through all the pressures they face, while also letting them make their own decisions. Never trivialize their feelings, be sensitive (rather than reactive), and cultivate trust in them. In the end, the hope is that your children have internalized the healthy habits of the home they grew up in to carry them onward through life.