All parents strive to ensure their children's physical and mental well-being. But invariably, some decisions they take may be harmful for their kids' health. Here's how to avoid making these mistakes
By Jayanthi Madhukar
Do you let your child run off to school without breakfast? Or ignore your little one's dental hygiene and have a casual attitude about fever? Unknowingly, even an educated and well-read parent may sometimes overlook certain important factors about the child’s health.
According to a joint study by Assocham-EY (2017), India continues to consume non-nutritious, non-balanced food either in the form of undernutrition, overnutrition or micronutrient deficiencies. Another study by the not-for-profit Naandi Foundation revealed that about 2.4 per cent of children in ten cities were overweight or obese. These may be the result of certain common mistakes parents make that adversely affect their kids. We tell you about these mistakes and how to fix them.
Fix: You can spend time with your kid at home. The bonus is health benefits.
By not letting your kid stay in the kitchen while you are cooking, both lose out. When cooking a meal, you may not want her in the way. But studies have shown that when a child is involved in meal preparation, she will at least try the food. For instance, making her cut some ‘no-no’ vegetables like radish or spinach, may encourage her to take a helping of the same at the table. Preparing a salad with your little one will get her interested in the colours of the ingredients and appreciate the vegetables and fruits that go into it. Importantly, this together time leads to a lot of freewheeling conversations.
Fix: Feeding mistakes are easy to rectify
As a parent, you would know that many children are fussy eaters; that’s part of their development. They are usually averse to trying new foods. But, children are especially vulnerable to the easy availability of unhealthy, packaged food. Expose them to a variety of fruits, veggies and healthy food, but coaxing is not going to work. Rewarding them (by allowing them to watch TV while eating) or punishing them are wrong options. Keep the food on the table and stay neutral. Whatever it is, don’t give up easily. Put the food they are averse to trying, in front of them on at least fifteen occasions. Cook it differently but don’t berate. It’s okay to dress up boring foods with embellishments. For example, mildly spiced up paneer (cottage cheese) rolled up in rotis will make an interesting snack, so will ranch dressing on steamed vegetables.
“Children learn healthy eating habits by watching parents, so set a good example. Distraction feeding should not be a solution. Instead, making meals a part of family time, where everyone sits together and eats, will encourage children to try new foods. For younger kids, self-feeding will motivate them to try different foods,” says Archana Reddy, nutritionist.
Fix: Make exercising an enjoyable activity
Parents who exercise because they love it will most likely have children who follow suit. Involve the little ones whenever possible. Walk to the neighbourhood shop, go for a swim with them on a pleasant day, do aerobics by playing the video on TV, get them involved with gardening - anything that will keep them physically active rather than simply berating them to go out and play even when there is no company.
Fix: From brushing teeth to flossing, lead by example and supervision
It’s good if you have been reminding (or nagging) your children to wash hands frequently. But, have you been watchful of their dental hygiene? Make them floss once a day at least and make it a bedtime ritual. They may protest, but they will get the activity registered in their heads, and that will make it a habit. Similarly, monitor how they brush their teeth and always insist on sips of water after the little tykes have consumed milk before going to bed.
Fix: There are healthier ways to quench their thirst
If your child is thirsty, nothing can replace the benefits of plain water. Next would be fresh fruit juice or better still, the fruit itself. Iced lemon tea is also a swell option. Cold milk flavoured with a treat, like vanilla extract or rose syrup, can be placed in the refrigerator. Your child will forget sugary drinks if you offer these tasty options first. Watch the difference it will make in your child’s health and attitude.
Fix: Always monitor fevers
Putting your hand on your child’s forehead is not the way to monitor a fever. Fevers can catch you by surprise and lead to severe complications. Always check the fever with a rectal thermometer. If the child is cranky, the underarm temperature is okay as well. Give medicines as prescribed by the doctor rather than relying only on home remedies. Cold packs and consultations with the physician are mandatory in case of fever over 102 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fix: Breakfast is a big deal
Early morning school rush and what gets hit? Breakfast. The lead cause for crankiness is skipping the most important meal of the day. So, what should you do? Allocate your morning schedule around breakfast. That time should be sacrosanct. If your child is late, pack a small box for breakfast on-the-go. A banana is a quick pick-me-up so incorporate it into this meal.
”Having breakfast should be compulsory as the child has not eaten for the last 8-9 hours. Give your child a simple sandwich or even one idli, which will sustain him till the next meal,” says Archana.
Fix: Check on flu vaccines
If your child is regularly catching a cold or has flu-like symptoms, do not ignore it. Check with your paediatrician about flu vaccines. If the doctor gives a go-ahead signal, then consider this vaccine for the kid. It will stave off a lot of inconveniences, from being sick to catching up on school work.
Fix: Don’t do it. Mental health is important
Have you ever compared your child with someone else, maybe a sibling? How about that question - ‘Who got the highest marks?’ Or else, do you scoff at any of his creative ideas? Have you criticised the way he dresses or the way he looks (too skinny, too fat...)? These may fuel into what could become a personality defect in the child. Praise him constructively, not blindly. Compliment him frequently. Critique, don’t criticise. Talk to him about what he is doing, how he feels and learn to listen to him. Instead of ‘Who’ ask ‘What’ was the highest marks. Be his cheerleader always and as a parent, help him set goals for himself. Help him have a sound mind in a healthy body.
Fix: Home is where a child can voice her fears or vent out emotions
One of the mistakes parents do, is to avoid confrontations or showdowns. They try their best to stave off meltdowns by making things work for their kids. When your child is frustrated, be compassionate and empathetic but don’t avoid a definite venting. If she says things to you out of frustration or anger, don’t take it personally. Telling her that she is disrespectful is not as helpful as letting her calm down and weighing options with her. Mental health is complicated but giving your child tools to deal with frustrations is possibly your best gift for her future.
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