By Hazel Bridges

Sometimes it can be difficult to feel like we can teach our kids to lead healthy lives when we struggle with things ourselves. But personal growth is important for everyone, and encouraging healthy choices is a great way to both educate your child and help them thrive. From keeping a well-organized home to tending to your child’s mental and physical health, there are many ways to foster health-conscious decision-making in children. Today, Wellspring Center for Prevention shares some tips and resources to help you do just that.

Model a Healthy Home Environment

Modeling a healthy home environment involves steps such as incorporating plants, keeping your home clean and organized, and stocking the fridge and pantry with healthy foods and filtered water. Children will pick up on these habits and will then benefit from the mental health improvement these activities provide. Conversely, not modeling them can have bad effects; for instance, children may learn helplessness if they live in an environment where everyone allows clutter to pile up.

Get Mental Health Support for Your Child

Mental health support can be important at any age, including childhood. If you suspect your child may be facing depression, anxiety, or too much stress, consider accessing mental health services for them.

If you struggle with mental health or addiction, let your child know that you also seek support for these challenges. Modeling healthy behaviors to overcome difficult situations is a great way for your kids to see the value of mental health support.

Today, online therapy makes a wide range of licensed professionals available, no matter your location. This arrangement can save time and travel expenses, and many therapists offer free consultations to help you find a good fit. Obtaining mental health support for your child will help their state of mind in the present and signal that it’s OK to ask for help in the future.

Prioritize Nutrition

Children learn by example when it comes to nutrition, which is why modeling certain behaviors is a great way to raise healthy eaters. To do so, prioritize eating as a family and sticking to a regular snack and meal schedule. The former will let you display healthy choices like eating your vegetables and avoiding sugary snacks, while the latter will cut down on midday and late-night grazing.

Also keep in mind that children can be picky, and they may not clear their plates. That’s okay. Your child may need repeated exposure to a certain food before they try it. And removing the expectation that they eat everything on their plates can help them get more in tune with their hunger cues.

Encourage Responsible Decisions with Alcohol

Especially as they enter their teen years, children may be tempted by alcohol, which is why it’s critical to model responsible drinking (or abstinence) from the start. Beyond that, try to be open to answering your child’s questions about drinking. Don’t be afraid to take the initiative in starting a discussion, either, especially as your child gets older. Teenagers should also know if alcohol problems run in the family, as this can make them more vulnerable to alcohol-related issues themselves. 

You could even advocate for Wellspring Center for Prevention prevention programs to be offered at your child’s school or community organizations. This course is tailored for elementary, middle, and high school audiences to help them learn about healthy ways to avoid addiction.

Encourage Exercise

Building an exercise habit has many benefits for children, including weight maintenance in the present and disease prevention down the line. As is the case with many good habits, you can be an example when it comes to exercise. Children who see their parents enjoying physical activity will be more likely to embrace it themselves.

You can also frame exercise as fun rather than drudgery with exciting choices like dance parties or long walks through a zoo. If you live in a walkable area, even family walks after dinner or for the occasional dessert run can instill healthy habits. Plus, walking together can be a great time to catch up and reconnect as a family.

Embracing Change

To raise healthy, active children, it’s important to display healthy choices in everything from your home’s contents to your embrace of exercise. If they see their biggest role models make good decisions, children will start moving toward making similar decisions themselves.

If you or someone you love suffers from addiction, encourage them to contact Wellspring Center for Prevention for support.

Photo by Gustavo Fring

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