Is your child overweight? Does she stay glued to the TV? All you need to do to get these issues fixed is to implement a few simple lifestyle changes. Read on to know what they are.
By Ashwin Dewan
To begin with, let’s hear the experience of Anamika Khanna, mother to eight-year-old Rahul: “My son was addicted to junk food, especially burgers and colas. I doted on him and would take him out regularly for a burger treat. I realised my mistake when, one day, he had a bad stomach ache. A trip to the doctor revealed a case of stomach infection due to excess intake of processed food. Today, I have made significant changes to his diet and his health has improved for the better.”
Making changes to one’s lifestyle helps – both mentally as well as physically. When it comes to your child, certain lifestyle changes can help her in various areas like maintaining good health, being well-informed, learning the value of money and successfully prioritising tasks.
1. Say YES to fruits and vegetables / NO to junk food: Encourage your child to eat more fruits and vegetables. This will ensure she gets her daily quota of nutrients as well as lots of antioxidants and vitamins.
Junk food is not good for your child's health. Try to limit your child’s junk or processed food intake as they are high in unsaturated fats and sodium, which can lead to many health hazards such as obesity and constipation.
According to the World Health Organization, the number of overweight or obese infants and young children up to five years, increased from 32 million in 1990, to over 41 million in 2016, globally.
Along with healthy and nutritious food, your child should also make it a habit to drink lots of water rather than fruit juice and soft drinks that contain sugar. Water helps flush out toxins from the body, aids digestion and is essential for proper blood circulation.
2. Reduce screen time: A child spends most of his time watching TV, before the computer, on the mobile phone, and other electronic gadgets. This not only affects his health and makes him lethargic because he remains indoors most of the time, but also weakens his eyesight. Screen time can also affect your child's social life.
Try to limit screen time for your children as much as possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that for children aged 2 to 5, screen time should be limited to 1 hour per day of high-quality and educational programs. This will enable your child to utilise the remaining free time to pursue a hobby or play a sport.
3. Exercise and play more: Regular physical activity such as exercising and playing games is vital for a child’s overall growth and development.
A study, Physical Activity in Children’s Health and Cognition, published in the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, in 2018, by Zan Gao et al, states that regular participation in physical activity helps reduce the risk of childhood obesity and associated chronic diseases.
Physical activity does not necessarily have to be a team sport or playing in the open ground. Even simple activities like household chores, dancing or taking a walk can count.
4. Get enough sleep: Today, a child stays up till late in the night watching TV, surfing the Net, playing games and watching videos on the mobile phone. This is not good for his health. Without enough sleep, the body cannot function properly.
A study, Importance of good sleep routines for children, by the University of British Columbia, published in 2018, mentions that healthy sleep habits play an important role in promoting children’s growth and development. Enough sleep can help prevent lifestyle diseases like obesity in children. You need to set a fixed time when your child must go to bed.
5. Read more: Today, with the advent of technology, your child is reading less than she needs to. Try to get your child to read more books. This is a good habit that will help her develop basic language skills and expand her vocabulary.
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” –Albert Einstein.
Reading exposes your child to a wide range of vocabulary, and the more words she learns, the more beneficial it is for her. It also enhances your child’s concentration, as when she reads a book, she must give her full attention to it.
Reading also increases your child’s thirst for knowledge. Even her creativity develops as she will use her imagination to try and connect with the characters and events in a book.
Therefore, encourage your child to put aside the mobile phone or tablet and pick up a book. She can start with a short and easy-to-read book, and move on to more complex ones.
6. Be responsible with money: Children should be taught money matters early so they will not struggle with finances later. Do not give your child money whenever he asks for it. Encourage him to save money. Begin by getting him a piggy bank. Tell him to put a certain amount every week in it. Every rupee counts!
If you give your child pocket money, then tell him to manage within the fixed amount. He will learn the dynamics of handling finances and will be careful when it comes to money matters.
Apart from the above lifestyle changes for your child to make this year, there are others which are equally important, like:
Eating breakfast: Breakfast is often considered the most important meal of the day for a child. For good reason, too! Eating breakfast gives your child the energy for the rest of the day to do various activities like concentrating on studies and during play. Don't skip it!
Brushing teeth twice a day: Does your child brush only once a day? If so, change it to twice a day. It is a good oral habit to follow and will help prevent oral problems like cavities, sensitive teeth, and bad breath.
Parental support helps…a lot!
Good food habits combined with a fixed exercise schedule can work wonders for the human body. However, it is not always easy for your child to follow them.
You need to step in and make things easier for her, by setting rules and routines and guiding her in following them. And, provide your child with the necessary support and encouragement throughout.
If she is motivated and encouraged constantly, it will not take much time for these lifestyle changes to become a part and parcel of her daily life.
Be a good role model
Children look up to their parents and try to follow in their footsteps. Get a healthy diet and exercise routine for yourself, and your child will pick up these habits.
In the end the results matter. If your child follows these changes regularly, they will become a habit with your child that will stay with him throughout life.
Also, remember, a healthy lifestyle requires commitment and continuous effort. A child needs to be encouraged to adapt to a new lifestyle change. You need to slowly introduce these changes to your child, or she will refuse to accept them. Start with one and gradually move on to the next lifestyle change. This way, your child will be used to one change by the time she is ready for another.
With inputs from Arundhati Swamy, counsellor and the Head of Parent Engagement Programs at ParentCircle.
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