Healthy Choices: Helping Your Kids Avoid Negative Temptations
Raising kids can often feel like running an obstacle course—with so many hazards and unhealthy temptations, it’s not always easy to keep them out of harm’s way. But if you’re diligent and positive in your approach, you may be able to guide them towards the right choices.
As recently as 2018, the USA obesity prevalence was as high as 42.4%. This is partly owing to the wide availability of junk foods and the higher intake amongst children and adolescents (who are 36.3% likely to eat fast food on a given day). The truth is that unhealthy food options are everywhere and understanding them is key to improving our children's diet.
The first (and often most silent) culprit in bad dietary health amongst children is caffeine. Caffeine can be found in most carbonated soft drinks (Coca-Cola, Sprite, Fanta) and affects growth, heart rate, blood pressure, and sleeping patterns. When you couple caffeine with an excessive sodium intake via salted foods, you have a recipe for bad health.
It was found that 80% of toddlers in the United States consume more than the maximum intake of 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day and this habit passes on to children of older ages. Luckily, there are plenty of nutritious alternatives to junk food that will leave your kids feeling energized and well-fed. Try introducing whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein as a start. Dinner can still be delicious if you’re willing to spend more time in the kitchen and teach the way for new, healthy recipes.
Much debate has been had over the effects of video games on young children, but the stark reality is that, as long as your child is spending hours (or days) playing games, they’re not exercising, they’re not studying and they may be distracting themselves from hobbies and activities that will prove useful later in life. It can be tempting to rip out the cord, but if you want to effectively wean your kids off the screens, you’ll need to use strategy.
By adopting a ‘cooperative’ not ‘confrontational’ approach, you can often avoid arguments. Try to speak with them calmly and respectfully—explain your opinions and what they could be missing out on. It’s also important to engage in alternative activities with them—oftentimes, the only thing more exciting for kids is the opportunity to play with their parents. You can encourage exercise, take an interest in their hobbies, organize play dates or even take a family trip. For older kids, give them the means to have fun with their friends in a social setting and the tools to develop skills.
Drugs and Alcohol
As kids get older, the vices often become more hazardous. Drugs and alcohol are an inevitable influence throughout adolescence, and while you can’t singlehandedly stop experimentation, you can open up a constructive, trusting dialogue that will allow them to reflect upon their choices. The motivation to try drugs and drink usually comes from peer pressure but also can be incentivized by a need to escape. It’s important, therefore, that you don’t create an environment they need to escape from. Even though your kids are older, the house can still be a warm, welcoming place for them to live.
Sometimes, a positive example is the best route forward. You can often set the right tone just by pursuing your own goals—for example, a BSED opens opportunities to work with preschoolers and elementary-aged children. Due to online, remote working you might be able to earn a degree, set an example for your own kids, and still have time to contribute to your usual household responsibilities.
There are no set rules for helping kids make healthy choices, but if you apply your own positive mentality to the problem, you’re sure to get the best results.
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