Picture this: a busy working mom, a harried dad in the office, and a hungry kid craving for mac and cheese. The easiest choice would of course be, sadly, instant mac and cheese. Mashed potatoes? Canned chicken noodle soup? Almost everything is available in an instant. Child bored at home? A smartphone, the latest games, and WiFi would be the easiest solution.
Happy child, happy parents, right?
Let’s face it: The rise of technology and the digital age have brought so much convenience to humans - and along with them, a number of negative health habits. Food choices have become more “convenient” as almost every kind of edible stuff comes in packages and is labeled as “instant.” Add to that the fact that kids these days are more often seen holding gadgets and smartphones than actual toys or books, or running and playing with other kids outside.
When I was 7 or 8 years old, I remember one Saturday morning as I was watching the 5th cartoon in a row on television that my mom came in and stated that there was no way I was going to waste every Saturday like that. She picked me up and we took the train into Manhattan, where I had my very first dance class.
Little did I know that the day would lead to a 17-year love affair with a career in ballet.
In these fast-paced modern times, it’s crucial for parents (or guardians) to be aware of their roles in raising healthy children – not just in the physical sense but also in mental, emotional, and social aspects. The best habits that we’ve learned from the earlier generations about healthy food choices, self-discipline, and other important values must be passed on to our descendants. And it all starts where children live and grow: at home.
Practice healthy habits from the moment your child is born, or even better, during pregnancy. I’ve watched women change habits from chain-smoking to clean living when they became mothers, and they carried on as their kids grew. Children, no matter how young, absorb and mimic what they perceive in their environment, so start healthy habits from day one. Snack time, for example, should mean fruits rather than cookies, water or juice rather than soda pop. No one is born with a sweet tooth, so getting your children used to eating healthy foods right out of the gate is a whole lot easier than having to adjust to better food choices later on.
Choosing to be healthy should eventually be an all-encompassing decision, so when you choose to eat healthy foods, strive to be healthy in everything else as well. Encourage your children to play sports rather than video games so they can benefit from the exercise. Introducing them to a sport, a hobby, or an art such as dancing as my mom did for me will contribute to their holistic health. Expose them to other families and children with healthy habits to foster good friendships.
Many parents nowadays are guilty of this. While social media provides ease of connection with other people, keep in mind that it’s still healthier for you and your children’s relationship to disconnect from such distractions when spending quality time together. Making them feel that they have your undivided attention when it matters will give them a strong sense of security. Learning to disconnect from gadgets also helps prevent behavioral disorders such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, which is being diagnosed more commonly among kids recently.
Although every child grows and develops at his own pace, it’s important to keep an eye on your children’s progress. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to compare how fast they learn a lesson in school compared to their classmates. You want to look for long-term developments such as their physical growth within a number of months, their mental well-being, social, and emotional aspects. If you’re concerned about your children’s progress, you can always look for professional advice.
The current and upcoming generations in our modern times have constant, unlimited exposure to technology and information. They continuously discover and learn new things at a pace that far outstrips the previous generations. More than ever, it’s essential for parents to be good examples of healthy, sound choices and values - crucial lessons which cannot be learned on social media or the internet.
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