When you get right down to the basics, just about every parent is concerned about raising happy, healthy kids. Look at it that way, it seems simple. In reality of course, it’s anything but. Creating a good foundation for your child is crucial for their health and well-being throughout their life. As a parent, it’s your job to lay the groundwork and act as the support system as your child navigates the joys and sorrows of life. Here are three
1. Be a role model as a parent - choose love and kindness
I know, I know. It’s so easy to lose your patience. With your kids. With your spouse. With the traffic. With the person in the grocery store. But it’s so important to remember that your kids are going to emulate what you do. Kids are sponges for information when they’re young, and their subconscious minds are busy gathering information for later. Since just 10% of our mind is conscious, and that part of the brain does not develop until around age 8, those values and opinions you pass on through your actions can get stored in the 90% of your child’s brain that is the subconscious as facts.
Wouldn’t you rather the information your child is downloading is that love and kindness, not irritation and disdain, are the best ways to react to others? You need to be that role model who models kindness, shows love, respect, and empathy, and apologizes for mistakes.
2. Create a healthy lifestyle and good eating patterns
As you probably know, obesity is a huge problem in the United States. In children, it has tripled since the seventies. Many people—2.3 million in 2009—live in food deserts and do not have easy access to healthy food, which makes them at higher risk for obesity and health problems.
Knowing what we know now about child nutrition and its important role in growth and overall health, it’s important to do whatever you can to feed your kids natural food and create a blueprint for healthy living that they can follow later in their lives. Healthy food and exercise helps kids stay healthy, and promotes a more active lifestyle. Encouraging kids in their youth to develop lifestyle habits that incorporate healthy eating and moderate activity can ensure they maintain good health. It’s important to encourage kids to eat unprocessed foods, and more natural foods too, in addition to physical exercise.
It’s important to note that part of feeding your children well is creating a healthy relationship with food. Navigating the environmental, ethical, and nutritional nuances of our food system, along with body image and health is challenging, and it’s up to us to help our children learn to create positive patterns and attitudes toward themselves, their health, and lifestyle.
3. Make sure your kids are genuinely happy and joyful
No kid is going to be happy all the time. They won’t always agree with our choices, and we can’t shield our kids from all the bad in the world—it’s something we all need to learn to navigate at some point—but we can do all we can to make sure our kids lead mostly happy and joyful lives. Childhood trauma is created through culture and environment, and it can even be passed down to the next generation. If you experienced trauma, you should know how it ties into your child’s experience, and ensure you’re taking care of your own and your child’s mental health.
So how to you help create a more joyful childhood experience? Spending time you’re your kids. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Something as simple as going outside together to play or to take a walk, reading together, saying yes to a sleepover, trusting and listening to your child—all of these can be healthy ways to foster joy.
Doing Your Best Every Day
As every parent knows, raising children is not a glamorous job. It’s messy, stressful, and even unpleasant at times. It’s also the most rewarding job there is, especially when your child grows up and makes meaningful contributions to the world. Doing the best you can to ensure your child’s health and happiness needs are met can help them long term and enable them to grow up as confident adults. If these hacks seem foundational, it’s because they are: they’re what great kids—and in turn, great adults—are built from.