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Parenting styles and approaches widely vary, but parents share a common goal of raising happy, healthy, and fully functioning humans. Here are helpful strategies to help your child make good decisions.

Model Healthy Behaviors

Your child’s listening skills may be questionable at times, but you can be sure that their powers of observation are on point. Having impressionable eyes on you at any given moment gives you plenty of opportunities to model making healthy choices.

Let your child “catch” you making a green smoothie chock full of nutrients or completing a workout first thing in the morning. These actions will instill the value of healthy living more effectively than a good old-fashioned parenting lecture.

Promote Good Sleep Habits

Experts recommend that school-aged children sleep between nine to 12 hours each night, depending on age. Sufficient, quality sleep is associated with positive health outcomes including improved mood, increased cognitive function, and longer attention spans. Help your child get a good night’s rest by setting a consistent bedtime, keeping screens out of the room, and adjusting lighting and sound to optimal levels for sleep.

Establish Positive Relationships With Food

Children are notoriously picky eaters who often seemingly survive on bread and cheese. Teach your child to embrace healthy eating using the following tips:

  • Kids love their snacks. Offer a variety of nutritious options such as apple slices, carrot sticks with ranch dip, or trail mix.

  • Avoid labeling foods as “good” or “bad.” Focus instead on moderation and portion control.

  • Teach your child to read hunger cues rather than aiming to clear the plate.

Encourage Physical Activity

Adequate movement boosts children’s physical, mental and emotional well-being. Kids who participate in team sports typically get a good amount of exercise during practices and games, but your child doesn’t need to be a star athlete to enjoy these benefits. Riding a bike, climbing trees and jumping rope are wonderful alternatives to traditional sports that let children stay active.

Incorporate physical activity into your family’s routine. Walk or bike to school if it’s doable. Go for a Saturday afternoon hike. Set up an obstacle course in your backyard. The possibilities for fun and fitness are endless!

Practice Mindfulness

Adults are no strangers to stress, but being a kid is tough, too. Children need coping strategies. Guided meditation, online yoga classes via Childlight Education Company, and other mindfulness exercises enable children to manage their emotions and develop critical skills such as self-control and resilience.

Keep an Open Line of Communication

Ask open-ended questions that give useful insight into your child’s school and personal life. These conversations allow you to naturally address challenging topics such as drugs, alcohol, and sex. Be clear that while you have certain values and expectations, you are always available to listen with a caring and compassionate ear.

That said, it’s important to seek professional help if your child displays signs of depression or anxiety, especially if these symptoms interfere with daily activities. Mental health services provided by licensed professionals are readily available virtually, allowing you to save money and time on therapy appointments. Finding a good match for your child is key, so look for therapists who offer free initial consultations. What’s more, these professionals can provide you with an online prescription (which can be filled locally) for whatever medication your child needs should you agree that would be beneficial.

As they approach adulthood, children will be tasked with making increasingly important and consequential decisions. Following healthy choices from a young age gives your child a strong foundation for solid decision-making and healthy living practices.

Written by Amanda Henderson

Amanda Henderson is both a mom to two rambunctious boys and a preschool teacher, so she knows from experience how quickly a situation can become unsafe. She created and writes for Safe Children to educate parents on how to keep their children safe while also having fun.