How Parents' Health Influences Their Child's Health

As a parent, did you know that your health affects your child’s well-being as well? Read on to know how by following a healthy lifestyle, you can make a positive difference in the life of your child.

By Shirley Johanna

How Parents' Health Influences Their Child's Health

All parents want their child to be healthy. However, for that to happen, parents themselves need to follow a healthy lifestyle, as children not only imitate parental behaviour but are highly likely to follow in their parents’ footsteps as well.

How parental outlook towards health affects the child

Exercise: Parental attitudes towards fitness play a crucial role in moulding a child’s perception of everything, including exercise. When children see their parents engaging regularly in exercise and physical activity, they are more likely to do so themselves and, thus, stay fit.

Teaching children the importance of exercise and encouraging them to remain physically active can help prevent a lot of health issues like childhood obesity and low immunity.

Tips to encourage your child to be physically active:

  1. Schedule time for exercise.
  2. Get toys which encourage physical activity such as jump ropes and balls.
  3. Join your child in activities such as swimming and hiking.

Remember, physically inactive children can suffer from issues like being overweight/obese, having weak muscles and bones, and possessing poor self-esteem.

Eat healthy: Food choices made by parents play a major role in influencing their child's beliefs and attitudes towards food. When parents limit or avoid the consumption of junk food, their child is less likely to go in for such food.

So, strive to be a role model for your child when it comes to eating healthy food. Practise healthy eating habits like including fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet to stay fit and lay the foundation for healthy eating habits in your child as well.

Tips to encourage your child to eat healthy:

  1. Make healthy food choices. Browsing through websites such as 'MyPlate' can help you come up with a well-balanced meal for yourself and your family.
  2. Avoid consumption of packaged and processed food.
  3. Avoid food that is high in fat, sugar and salt.
  4. Plan family meals to promote positive eating habits.
  5. Keep healthy snacks handy for your child.

Remember, as a parent, you are in the best position to shape your child’s food choices and eating habits.

Sleep: Most modern-day parents with a demanding lifestyle are sleep-deprived. Lack of sleep or inadequate sleep affects the mental processes and interferes with the ability to manage emotions. As a result, most sleep-deprived parents tend to express emotions like sadness, fear and anger. These negative emotions can be easily picked up by children, which can upset their mental well-being.

Tips for good sleep hygiene and to avoid sleep deprivation:

  1. Develop and follow a regular sleep schedule.
  2. If need be, take only short naps in the afternoon.
  3. Exercise daily.
  4. Avoid viewing gadgets with bright screens at least 1 to 2 hours before bedtime.

Mental health: The mental health of parents has a tremendous effect on a child’s well-being, as parents with psychological issues find it challenging to attend to the needs of their child. For example, depressed parents are more likely to feel drained, irritated and frustrated. As a result, children of such parents are more likely to show behavioural problems in school and grow up with a negative image of themselves. Nancy Godoy published a study, ‘The Impact of Maternal Depression on Children’s Growth and Development’, in the UC Merced Undergraduate Research Journal (2016). Her findings showed that maternal depression, if left untreated, could interfere with a child's social, emotional and cognitive development.

Also, children of parents with mental illness are at a higher risk of developing issues such as mood and personality disorders, alcoholism and other forms of addiction.

Tips to stay mentally healthy:

  1. Seek professional help if you experience or suspect mental health issues.
  2. Get support from those around you such as relatives, friends and teachers.
  3. Help your child connect with mentally healthy peers and adults by enrolling him in special classes or activities.

Parental habits that adversely affect a child’s health

Smoking: Some parents find it hard to quit smoking due to certain reasons. But, what they may be unaware of is that they may be influencing their child to pick up the habit, as children tend to imitate their parents.

Smoking is harmful not only to smokers but also to those around them. Davis Catherine et al published a study, ‘Passive Smoke Exposure and Its Effects on Cognition, Sleep, and Health Outcomes in Overweight and Obese Children’, in the journal Childhood Obesity (2016). The study included 220 overweight children aged 7 to 11 years and found that their obesity was a result of exposure to second-hand smoke. According to an article on the website of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children exposed to passive smoking are at a higher risk for suffering from asthma attacks, respiratory and ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Alcoholism: Children of alcoholic parents are four times more likely to become alcoholics themselves. According to an article on the website of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (No. 17; 2011), children of alcoholics experience severe emotional problems like guilt, anxiety, embarrassment, anger, depression, and the inability to have a close relationship with others. Also, children begin to view drinking as a harmless habit when they regularly see their parents consuming alcohol. As a result, such children tend to develop the habit of drinking early on in their lives. Parents who quit drinking not only improve their own health but also lower their child's risk for consuming alcohol.

Addiction to gadgets: A global survey conducted by AVG Technologies in June 2015 involving 6000 respondents recorded children’s perceptions of their parents' mobile phone usage. The findings of the study stated that 32% of the children felt that their parents spent too much time with their smartphones.

Parental addiction to gadgets can have an impact on their child's health. For, when parents are continuously engaged with their gadgets, children feel neglected, unimportant and unloved. So, set some rules for gadget usage. For example, make family time a gadget-free occasion. Pay attention to your child’s need and make eye contact when you spend time with her to strengthen the parent–child relationship.

Positive parental health habits are important to ensure a child's healthy growth and development. Remember, your child learns a lot by watching your everyday behaviour and habits. So, make sure that you follow a healthy lifestyle and encourage your child to imbibe the same.

Hope you liked this article. To get expert tips and read interesting articles on a wide variety of parenting topics, subscribe now to our magazine