The way we act as parents can impact the way our children feel about themselves. This sentiment is also true for influencing the health of our children. Although they might not want to admit it, our teens are watching us all of the time, keeping tabs on what we eat, how often we exercise, and if we buckle up in the car. With this in mind, the following three healthy habits are all things we can teach our teens by example:
Be a role model for safety
Do you want your teen to wear a helmet each and every time he or she heads out on a bike or rollerblades? Then as a parent, you should be sure that you do the same thing — every time. This concern for safety extends to other activities as well, notes the CDC, including always wearing a seat belt when you go out to drive, wearing sunscreen, and taking care of your eyes when heading out for a walk. Make sure you child wears UV-resistant sunglasses when outside. If you have some scratched up old shades you’d like to hand down, you can always replace the lenses inexpensively from a company like Revant Optics. If you go hiking together, have your teen help you to put together a portable first aid kit and set aside some bottles of water. By reinforcing these safety steps yourself, you establish a great model for healthy safety habits.
Watch what you eat
Teens and junk food seem to go hand in hand. If you are concerned your teen is overdoing it a bit on less-than-healthy foods, take an honest look at what you are eating and drinking. When you sit down to watch TV at night, do you have a bottle of water or a soda by your side? When you’ve had a busy day and are too tired to cook dinner, do you make an effort to throw together a quick salad and baked chicken breasts, or do you pile in the car and make a fast food run? As Sparke notes, it’s also important to not use food as a reward — at least not too often. In order to teach healthy eating habits by example, try not to motivate your teens with food. If you have had a great week at work and want to celebrate, treat yourself to a new pair of running shoes or maybe a nice new coffee mug instead of a big slice of chocolate cheesecake.
Take care of your body
Another wonderful way to lead by example when it comes to health is to be sure you are taking care of your body. At dinner, mention that you are going in for your yearly physical, and even though it might not be your favorite thing to do, talk about it in a positive manner. Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss regularly — although your teen probably won’t stand in the bathroom doorway and watch you do this, he or she will notice that you are doing it. And if flu shots are important to you, ask your new driver to give you a lift over to the nearby pharmacy and hang out with you when you get your shot.