Is your child taking part in physical activities voluntarily? Is your child having enough healthy meals? Do you now need to worry about your child’s physical and mental health seriously? You might need to start paying attention to your child’s physical and mental wellbeing.
Here are some facts and figures that might shock you.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services U.S, only one in three children are physically active every day. Children now spend more than seven and a half hours a day in front of a screen. (“Facts & Statistics”, 2020)
As of 2019, it is estimated that over 150 million children in the world are obese and that this will increase to 206 million by 2025. Obesity in childhood is associated with a wide range of serious health complications such as fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes. Being overweight or obese in adulthood increases the risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, 13 different cancers, liver disease, hypertension, and stroke. (“Statistics – Childhood Obesity Foundation”, 2020)
Obesity now affects 1 in 5 children and adolescents in the United States. (“Childhood Overweight and Obesity | Overweight & Obesity | CDC”, 2020)
Depression has been found to be associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease. Poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle can cause depression which ultimately leads to the risk of heart disease. Less sleep and insomnia becomes common among victims of depression.
Anxiety in children can cause fatigue, headaches, or stomachaches. Children, when anxious, try to keep their worries to themselves and can be less vocal about what bothers them. They may not talk about their helplessness or make it apparent. They can be lazy and unmotivated to do almost anything.
Children are mostly blamed for being inactive and lazy and doing nothing productive. But it’s their parents and surroundings that play the major role. Parents play the most important part of a child’s life. They can either gain their child’s trust and be his friend or not pay proper attention to them.
Despite all the differences, parents can help their children grow healthy and mentally strong. Parents can give their children a favorable environment at home to make it easier for children to express themselves. They can help them feel confident and secure about themselves.
Here’s what you can do for your child’s physical health
Never forget that you are the most important role model for your kids. Your children will learn their healthy choices by simply watching you doing them.
Here are some tips that you can use to encourage your children and teens to make that will help protect their physical health:
- Utilize around 60 minutes of your day with your child and perform moderate to energetic physical activity.
- Keep in mind your child’s age and stage of development when assigning activities.
- Restrict their screen time to less than 2 hours every day.
- Don’t expose your kids to smoke.
- Eating high-calorie foods, low-nutrient foods and beverages should be limited.
- Healthy sleep schedule should be maintained
- Consuming healthy foods and being physically active can help children grow and maintain a healthy weight.
- Making them learn how to balance calories from foods and beverages with the calories burned through activity.
- Eating foods that are healthy and being active physically helps to prevent chronic diseases (type 2 diabetes, cancers, and heart diseases).
- Developing a habit of eating a variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, a variety of lean protein foods, and low-fat and fat-free dairy products.
- Keeping daily calories at the right level and limiting fat can also help prevent heart diseases in adulthood.
- Decreasing the use of foods and beverages with added sugars, fats, or sodium in them.
- Children aged 3-5 years should be physically active throughout the day for better growth and physical development.
- Give your child soft pens, markers and different kinds of play materials.
- Have your child help with simple household chores.
- Try to make them walk or ride on bicycle to school, with a helmet.
- Teach some simple exercises. (Stretching etc)
- Play in the playground with them.
- Make them take part in sports practice or games.
- Make them participate in fun activities such as dancing.
- Take them on an evening walk together as a family.
- Help them throw a softball, climb a flight of stairs, walk to the store, or carry a few light packages.
- Don’t use physical activity as a punishment that eventually makes them hate it.
- Encourage them to try every type of sport and help them find some to stick with for life.
- Give them toys and games like bikes, skateboards, skates, scooters, jump ropes, balls and sports equipment.
- Always support their participation in sports, dance and other activities like swimming, biking and running.
- Start slowly if your child is inactive. Increase the amount and intensity of activity slowly each week. This will help them adjust to a more active lifestyle without becoming discouraged.
- If heart disease has been a part of your family already, talk with your child’s healthcare provider about it.
- Don’t let them go to bed just after the meal. You must teach them to develop the habit of 2 minutes of exercise before going to bed.
- Leafy green vegetables are a good source for many vitamins such as A, K, C. It also helps build iron and calcium.
- Help them learn how to meditate.
What does physical health have to do with mental health?
Health problems can eventually affect your child’s mental health and create serious health issues.
Childhood ailments can cause:
- Psychological problems such as anxiety and depression.
- Low self-esteem and lower self-reported quality of life.
- Social problems such as bullying and stigma.
- Emotional Strains
- Impaired body image
- Eating Disorders
- Emotional Neglect
- Guilt, shame and lack of control
- Post-traumatic stress
- Suicidal ideations
- Generalized Anxiety
All of these are enough to convince you to not ignore your child’s health in any case. Be it physical or mental, your child is important and deserves to live a happy and healthy life.
Being a parent it is your responsibility to give them the best upbringing and care. To become a better guardian and caretaker, you should always keep these steps in mind:
- Making them feel loved, trusted, understood, valued and safe.
- Take interest in their lives and give them enough opportunities to enjoy themselves.
- Being hopeful and optimistic.
- Being able to learn and having opportunities to succeed.
- Avoiding parental conflict.
- Help them accept who they are and recognizing what they are good at
- Keeping children out of family politics
- Don’t tell your child not to cry because he has to be strong. Instead, teach him how tears are never a sign of weakness.
- Let children make tiny decisions.
- Never stop them from questioning.
- Teach your child how to cope with stress; This could be by deep breathing, counting anticlockwise, modeling superhero stories, talking with someone trustworthy, having something sweet, etc.
- Having built a sense of belonging in their family, school, and community.
- Making them feel they have some control over their own life.
- Making them realize they have the strength to cope when something is wrong and the ability to solve problems.
- Being better at communication.
- Stop comparing your child with others.
- Every kid is different and unique; he or she has their own strengths. If he or she is scoring average and has an interest in co-curricular activities or is an amazing sports player, your kid is doing great. Never hurt his self-esteem or make him feel like that he or she is less than anyone.
- Talking them out of a problem.
- Do not push and demand. Instead, guide and support.
- Always be careful of what you say or do in front of them.
- Love and appreciate them every day.
- Make them learn from their mistakes.
- Remind them of their strengths and help them in dealing with their weaknesses.
- Make them proud of what they can do.
- Make them feel confident about their good habits.
- Make them believe in themselves. In this way, you will allow them to build their self-esteem, feel happy, good and mentally stable about themselves.
- Never teach him to tolerate bullying or to take part in it.
- Recognize and appreciate their little efforts.
- Always keep in check their psychological needs.
- If your child has experienced trauma, it is imperative that they go to therapy that focuses on this past trauma. As a parent/guardian, you can also be a part of this healing process by going to family therapy sessions together.
Aside from therapy, your child may need special attention in school and it may be wise to inform school counselors and teachers about your child’s history.