Posted By: Envision2bWell, Inc
As a parent, your number one wish for your children is that they live happy and healthy lives. That’s why you’re reading this article right now! You understand that being well is fundamental to longevity and happiness and you want to learn how to teach your kids healthy habits for a lifetime.
Sustainable health and wellness don’t happen overnight. If you want to help your children become healthy adults, it’s important to instill regular healthy habits in their everyday lives as early as possible. (This is not to say there is ever a time when it’s too late. After all, even us adults can learn new habits and ways of being!)
We often think of health and wellness in very narrow terms, but true well-being – the kind that leads to sustainably healthy and joyful living - is more than just the food we eat and the steps we take. At Envision2bWell, we’ve identified 10 Pillars of 360° Well-Being™ and they are the framework we use to build all of our wellness platforms, solutions and programs. The 10 pillars are: Eating, Fitness, Finance, Health, Humanity, Kindness, Mental Health, Relationships, Spirituality and Work. (Spoiler alert – we use these 10 pillars as the main framework for 10 of the 12 ways to help kids build healthy habits that we detail in this article!)
Here are 12 ways to help your kids build healthy habits:
This is a well-known and often-used quote because it’s the truth. Kids pay much more attention to what we do than what we say. If you want your children to become healthy adults, the BEST thing you can do for them is to become one yourself!
The food we eat is vital to our health and well-being. In the short-term, it affects our mood, energy level, emotions, tolerance for stress, cognition and more. In the long-term, the food we eat can either destroy our bodies or strengthen and heal our bodies.
In the area of nutrition, there is an enormous amount of information out there, but with kids we recommend keeping it simple. Feed them a diet made up primarily of whole foods such as fruits and veggies (and plenty of them!), whole grains such as brown rice and quinoa, nuts/seeds/legumes, and healthy proteins such as chicken and fish.
Beyond just feeding your kids a healthy diet, a great way to help them build healthy eating habits is to get them involved. If they get to be part of creating their meal, they are much more likely to enjoy it! You can also try making it a creative experience for them. Pinterest is a great resource for ideas on how to create ‘food art’ with your kids.
Another way to make healthy eating fun and engage your children in their nutrition is to grow your own produce. Many towns and cities have community gardens that you can become a part of, or you can use your own backyard! A child who has planted the seeds, tended to them and watched them grow until they are ready to be picked and eaten, will get so much more enjoyment out of the experience, as well as a greater understanding of what farm-to-table really means.
Our bodies were designed to move! They function optimally when we move regularly and they disfunction when we don’t. Sitting too much leads to all manners of disease and unwellness. Instilling a love of movement and an appreciation for their bodies is a great way to help your children live a long and healthy life.
Thankfully, it is pretty easy to make movement fun. With younger kids, keeping it playful helps but don’t be afraid to try all different types of movement with your children. They may not like them all, but that doesn’t matter. The important thing is to expose them to as many forms of movement and exercise as possible. Check out our recent blog about all different types of movement to get some ideas!
Family workouts are another way to instill healthy fitness habits in your kids. Search #familyworkout on Instagram and you’ll find tons of video inspiration to follow! Working out together is a wonderful way to bond with your kids too!
Financial wellness plays an important role in our overall well-being. Finances are among the top stress triggers for people and for relationships and can lead to mental health challenges, as well as physical health challenges.
Recently, we did a podcast about financial wellness that offers great tips on how to become more financially well with finance expert Joslyn Ewart. One of the things she talked about was how kids not only pick up on what we do when it comes to our money, but also how we feel. Becoming financially well ourselves will go a long way towards helping our kids build healthy financial habits and feelings about money in general.
Overall, you want to cultivate a positive attitude about money as a powerful resource. The good news is kids love having money of their own because it offers them a sense of autonomy, so it's easy to engage them in this area. Teaching them how to budget their money can actually be a fun experience! For instance, you can teach them the power of saving by showing them how to budget their allowance so that they can save up and buy that toy or video game they really want.
Or teach them about how money can be used for good! For instance, they can save an animal by donating some of their money to an animal shelter, or they can help feed and clothe a child in need. Children like to help and feel like they can make a difference in someone else's life. You can even teach your kids about investing! Check out Saving.org for this free calculator to show your kids how much they can make in 5 years just by investing a quarter a day. (It’s $546.22 by the way!)
Health may seem a like a pretty broad term, but this pillar is really about the preventative measures we all must take to stay on top of our health and well-being. In order to be well and stay well, you have to know your blood pressure, your cholesterol, your body fat percentage, etc. When it comes to preventive health, there are three key ways to help instill healthy habits in your children.
First, find a pediatrician your child likes. So many people shy away from going to the doctor as adults because of an innate fear of doctor visits. Cut this fear off at the root by choosing a doctor who helps your child relax and even enjoy the experience.
Second, get them involved in the conversation. Too often parents and doctors talk about their kids while they are in the room with them instead of to them. While much of the information might be over your child’s head, pull them into the conversation when appropriate so that they are more engaged in the whole process.
Finally, celebrate! After every well check-up, celebrate the wins with your child. For instance, if they grew, congratulate them on how all their healthy eating helped them grow big and strong! This teaches your childrenth he power of healthy habits and gets them excited about knowing the health of their bodies.
No human lives on an island. We are all connected – in this day and age more than ever. The term global community is really just another way of saying humanity. Understanding this is vital to sustainable health because we can’t unlink ourselves from the rest of humanity. A concrete example of this is the climate crisis. Even if a person were to do everything ‘right’ when it comes to their health and well-being, they can’t be saved from the effects of climate change. Another example is the pandemic we all just went through. Our ability to reach herd immunity and save lives requires us all to work together and to take precautions that help others.
The easiest and most effective way to build this healthy habit into your kids’ lives is volunteering. When they are young, children will love volunteering because they naturally love giving and connecting with others. It will make them feel good and they’ll want to do more of it. As they get older, you can talk to them them about why it's importatn to volunteerand about how we are all in this together.
Another great way to introduce your kids to the humanity pillar of 360° Well-Being™ is to teach them about human rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. There are many great biographies out there for children of all ages.
Kindness is a pillar that most people overlook when they think about their health, but in actuality it is essential to our well-being. Imagine, for instance, a world without kindness. It would be awful! Instilling kindness as a daily habit in your kids will have a profound effect on their well-being as adults. Kindness is one of those pillars that greatly influences – and is a critical component of – other pillars of health and well-being.
For instance, relationships. A relationship without kindness will not survive, and if it does, it’ll be pretty miserable for all involved. Another example? Mental health. If we are not kind to ourselves, our mental health suffers. And how about humanity? Where would humanity be without kindness?
When it comes to teaching your children to be kind, there are two important components. One is empathy. Empathy is a fundamental part of kindness. The second is action. Being kind is an act, not an attitude. Think about it. If you were asked to explain why you think someone is kind, you’d most likely offer examples of how that person showed you/others kindness.
A fun way to build the kindness habit in your kids is to have weekly/monthly “Random Acts of Kindness” days where the entire family (and even friends) perform as many acts of kindness as they can. Another fun way is to go out of your way to show kindness to them. These little acts of kindness will bring you closer, bring you joy, and create a lasting impression about the impact of kindness on a person’s life – their own!
This is a big one. There are so many facets to mental health it is impossible to touch upon them all, so we’ll just focus on two big ones – self-talk and self-care.
Negative self-talk is very damaging to our mental well-being because it negatively impacts a number of mental health issues such as self-esteem, self-respect, depression and more. We highly recommend listening to a podcast we did with mental health therapist and best-selling author of Dethroning Your Inner Critic, Joanna Kleinman. Joanna offers wonderful advice on how to take away the power of that inner critic so she/he can stop controlling your life. You can use this as a guide for yourself and your children!
Self-care is a preventive facet of mental well-being. Living can be stressful, there’s no avoiding that. Not all stress is bad, after all. Sometimes it can be a great motivator to help us rise to the challenge. The problem comes when stress builds up to the point of being chronic and overwhelming.
Self-care is the antidote to that. For kids, self-care isn’t necessarily a long, hot bubble bath by candlelight, but it could be a long hot bubble bath with toys and laughter! Other ideas for self-care are going for a walk or hike, telling funny jokes or watching a funny movie, having a 10 minute dance-it-out session, having a pillow fight, or coloring.
Relationships bring much joy into our lives and unhealthy relationships bring much pain. Teaching our kids to cultivate healthy relationships – both with themselves and with others – is vital. There are so many different facets to a healthy relationship but a few of the main ones are communication, empathy, conversation, and boundaries.
Of course, the main way you can teach your kids about positive relationships is to cultivate a healthy one yourself with them. Take the lead and model good communication, empathy, boundaries, and connection through conversation in your relationship with your children. This is rewarding and fun for both of you!
Be on the lookout, too, for those teachable moments. For example, if your child is struggling to talk about his feelings, this is a good opportunity to teach him how to better communicate and identify his feelings. If she is having a fight with a friend, this is an opportunity to help her navigate the conflict and work things out. If he is being taking advantage of or mistreated, this is an opportunity to help him set healthy boundaries and speak up for himself.
Daily spiritual practice such as mindfulness and meditation greatly improves health and well-being. With spirituality, it’s less about what you do than about the fact that you do it. (Listen in on a recent podcast we did on spirituality and health that highlights the benefit of spiritual practice as well as its universality across very different perspectives. It might spark some ideas about how to incorporate spirituality into your own life, as well as your kids!)
Yoga is great spiritual practice for kids because it’s a moving meditation which is easier than sitting still for some. Time in nature is another fun way to incorporate spirituality. Go on a hike with you kids and help them just be present in the moment and enjoy the beauty of nature around them. As kids get a little older, you can expose them to more traditional meditation, but we recommend starting with no more than five minutes. Meditation is like a muscle that gets stronger over time. Sharing the experience with them can help, as well as using guided meditations.
You may be wondering what work has to do with kids. After all, kids don’t go to work so how does this pillar apply? However, if you think of how your children’s lives are structured, you quickly realize that for kids, school is their work and many of the healthy habits you help them build for school will help them greatly in their work life as adults.
Adults spend a lot of their time at work, just as kids spend a lot of their time in school. This is why work (and school) is an important aspect of health and well-being.
It’s easy to become too narrowly focused on grades and performance when it comes to our children’s education but try to maintain a larger perspective on how this is preparing them for life. Fostering healthy work habits, for instance, will help your children tremendously both now and in the future. Teaching them how to advocate for themselves is also important, as well teaching them to speak up and speak out. Finally, teaching them how to handle stress by practicing self-care and focusing on what they can control is also invaluable. Even in the best of jobs, there are bound to be stressful days and times.
Every Kid Healthy™ Week is an annual observance created in 2013 by the nonprofit organization, Action for Healthy Kids. Their mission is to mobilize family-school partnerships to prepare kids to be healthy in body and mind.
Their fundamental belief that healthy children create a better world is the driving motivation behind their mission and vision and we couldn’t agree more! Healthy people – children and adults both – create a better world! Action for Healthy Kids envisions a world where every kid is healthy just as we envision a world where everyone is healthy.
We encourage you to visit their website and take advantage of the free resources they offer to help you raise healthy kids!
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