What’s the Best Advice for Children’s Health?
The vast majority of parenting healthy children comes down to things that I like to say are simple, but not easy. What does that mean? Take running a marathon, for example. It’s simple: start running, and stop when you’ve gone 26.2 miles. But even world class athletes wouldn’t call it easy. Parenting is similar: make sure your child has healthy food, good sleep, lots of exercise, and intellectual stimulation, especially reading. It’s the details that make it hard.
Good Sleep is Good Parenting!
Babies have to learn to get themselves to sleep, but the process of transitioning from the waking state to sleeping can be difficult and sometimes uncomfortable, often involving some crying. We as parents are hard-wired to respond to our children’s crying, and so we’re tempted to do anything to make it stop, whether that’s co-sleeping with a newborn (which raises the risk of sudden infant death syndrome), giving our toddlers a bottle at night (which can cause cavities), or letting our teens sleep with a television on or a mobile phone by the bed. Sleep is simple, but it’s hard.
Establish a Healthy Lifetime Diet
We are evolved to prefer sweets, salt, and fats. Toddlers are programmed to be very picky eaters; if they weren’t, who knows what they’d pick up off the ground and swallow?! Older children may prefer bags of chips over fruits and vegetables. And plain water is, well, plain. Providing primarily healthy choices for our kids is simple: pretty much everyone knows it involves water, whole foods as opposed to processed foods, and a diet heavy in plant-based nutrients. But watching a toddler turn up her nose at an entire plate of food or hearing a teen tell us that none of his friends’ parents serve this stuff? You might prefer to run a marathon.
Exercise their Minds and Bodies
Exercise and intellectual stimulation often go hand-in-hand. After all, they’re activities that require time and space away from easier activities like watching television. A good start it to begin reading to your infant from birth onward. She won’t know what you’re saying at first, but her love of books will grow, starting with her love of your voice, your smell, and your breathing. Exercise just needs to be fun, from jumping up and down in your arms to scoring that goal at the high school soccer match. If we make time in our kids’ lives to enjoy the feeling of moving, they’ll figure out what kind of motion they want to do. The hard part for many of us is to help our kids turn off their screens long enough to get off the couch. Trust me, it’s simple, but, well, you know.