There are many ways as parents that we can encourage healthy living and wellness amongst our children and families, and starting sooner is always better than waiting for the perfect time.
Focusing on healthy living means you won’t often be taking care of sick kids, but it also increases their mental and emotional health, and confidence, as well as your family connection, and likely your health and wellbeing in the process. Let’s take a look at five areas where you can focus on optimizing the health of your family.
Limit Screen Time
We live in a world that’s dictated by screens, so let’s be practical on this front. We’re not going to tell you to banish your phone from your life, but maybe from your bedroom? Setting boundaries with your phone, computer, and even TV screen can help support your nervous system, your overall health, and, of course, being more present and aware in the day to day moments. The World Health Organization recommends that children under the age of one are not exposed to screen time at all and that children aged one to four should have no more than an hour of screen time per day.
The truth is that these are just guidelines and that they aren’t worth stressing too much over. Create the boundaries that work for you, and determine the situations that you would like to avoid screen time in (maybe at the dinner table, for example) versus when you’re going to be more relaxed (perhaps if you are out at a meal with friends and your child is getting impatient).
Don't forget about boundaries when you are using your phone in front of your children as well— they pick up on our cues!
Research shows that spending time outdoors, specifically in nature or around trees, has drastic benefits for your mental and physical health. Spending time outside with your family allows for improved connection time, and an opportunity to ensure your children are appreciating and connecting to nature, one of the most healing, free forces available to us.
Getting outside can look like a lot of things: going on a hike or stroll in a park, heading to a playground outside, signing up to participate in a community garden, going to the beach, playing sports or recreational activities, or even just hanging out in your backyard, if you have one.
The closer you can get to the earth, the better— getting your hands dirty or feet in the grass or sand allows us to both feel a closer connection to the earth and allow for more diversity in our microbiomes. It’s such a powerful free tool to improve our health, and a great way to teach kids about embracing the power of nature during times of boredom or stress.
Connect over Meals
Mealtime is a great opportunity to connect with your family, regroup from the day, and check-in. Whether you have time to cook yourself or you’re bringing in a healthy meal, consider sitting down to enjoy your evening meal together, if possible.
If your work schedule doesn’t align with your children’s schedule, aim for having meals together on the weekends! From eating healthier meals to creating a more purposeful and intentional time to connect with your family, eating family meals hosts a range of health and emotional benefits.
Boost Your Health with Snacks
Snack time is ripe with opportunities to be beneficial to our health, instead of detrimental. Instead of stocking the pantry with processed snacks, consider healthier alternatives. Cut up veggies, fruit, hummus, and even homemade baked goods provide a healthier and more nutritious option during snack time.
Since stress, anxiety, and lowered immunity, as well as inflammation, are conditions tied to sugar consumption, it’s best to avoid snacks with excess and/or processed sugar. That’s not to say you can’t make your own version of chocolate chip cookies with maple syrup or coconut sugar - just enjoy in moderation!
Lastly, let’s take a look at downtime. Since we’ve already looked at the importance of reducing screen time, it’s time to find activities that you and your child can participate in during downtime that doesn’t require a screen! Activities can include reading, playing with toys, spending time outside on a walk or at the playground, crafting, and more are great ways to encourage offline engagement.
Of particular focus may be creative projects and physical activity, which both serve an important role in children’s development, and also important for adults’ wellbeing as well!
A great activity that accomplishes so many facets of health is gardening— whether you have a yard with space for a garden, a patio to grow some herbs or access to a community garden, it’s an offline activity that helps children connect to their food, eat healthier food, and gain creative confidence.
When you start young and emphasize the importance of healthy living for your kids, it can set them up for a healthier life— physically and emotionally— in the short and long run. Setting good habits and emphasizing the importance of taking care of oneself as well as fostering relationships is not only important for your children’s health but your health as well as parents! Try integrating these strategies as a family and see how much better you feel.