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Healthy lifestyle for children: advice for parents

26.04.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

“Parents, how do your children spend their days? How do you instil the habits of healthy lifestyle in them? Because on our end everything is very bad. My son returns home in the middle of the day, forgoes eating normal lunch because nobody is there to make him, and then spends the rest of the day until we come home in front if the TV. It leaves him with little time to finish homework, and so his grades suffer. He put on some weigh because of bad eating habits. Withholding money is also not an option, because meals at his school are not free, they have to buy everything themselves at the confectionery. So he buys chips and chocolates, and then complains that his stomach hurts. And it’s completely impossible to explain to him the necessity of looking after his health. How can I convey it to my child?”

— Tamara, 31

It should be noted that in the comments section to Tamara’s post many mothers complained that their children were leading similar lifestyles. Unhealthy artery-clogging food, low activity levels, lack of sleep and rest present a problem for many families. Even adults sometimes don’t know how to lead a healthy lifestyle, so what chances are there for children who learn from their parents? And then these kids who became accustomed to eat a lot of fattening foods and spending most of their time in front of the computer will grow up into adults who will continue eating a lot and leading sedentary life. For them it would be twice as hard to change.

Let us talk about how a child’s health is influenced by his or her lifestyle, what habits can harm the growing body, and how we as parents can help our children develop useful healthy lifestyle skills.


Do children really need the skills of leading a healthy lifestyle? Won’t they just develop them later by themselves?

introducing children to healthy lifestyles

The term “healthy lifestyle” is more commonly used in relation to adults than to children. Adults learn how to eat properly, get used to regular workouts and try to sleep more. But relearning something all over again is never easy when the habits of eating everything and anything, going to bed late at night, spending weekends with beer in front of the TV, “smoking” the stress away have already taken root. That is why it’s so important to instil healthy lifestyle habits in children as early as preschool age. And when our children grow up, they won’t have any problems with overeating before heading to bed or trying to get by on 4 hours’ sleep a night.

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Children are rarely aware of the value of their health, so simply saying that “you need to care for your health from youth” is pointless. But it is possible to teach your children useful habits that will affect their health by a personal example or with the help of the 7Spsy Behaviour Modification Technique, by giving information about how the body works and what makes it break down. The benefits of these skills will be appreciated by children as they grow up.

Why it is important to maintain healthy lifestyle

You probably already know why it is important to lead a healthy lifestyle and how it affects your child’s health, so let us briefly outline the main benefits:

  • avoiding bad habits reduces the risk of many diseases, including  cardiovascular ones  and various types of cancer;
  • healthy habits improve brain function;
  • healthy lifestyle make a person more resistant to stress;
  • as a result, people who maintain a healthy lifestyle live longer.

Basic principles of a healthy lifestyle for children

formation of a healthy lifestyle in children

Let’s take a look at what can be done for your children right now.

Daily routine

Developing healthy lifestyle skills in children starts with the appropriate and well-thought-out daily routine. Children’s routines should take the form of a well-weighted and flexible plan, adapted to your child’s needs and capabilities. Furthermore, it is necessary to include time for games, sleep and socializing with family and friends, and it is better to mix the periods of study with periods of rest in order to make learning more effective.

Make sure that your child is not overworked. Sometimes the school load is exorbitant and can reach 10-12 hours for primary school students and up to 15-16 hours in high school.

Physical fitness

Lack of physical activity increases the risk of many illnesses  in the future and also impairs sleep and quality of life in the present. So it’s a good idea to start introducing children to a healthy lifestyle through exposure to sports. The core, after all, is formed in childhood, and the muscles “learn”  the proper way to grow. Thus malnutrition in childhood, for example, affects strength and growth later on.

It is also not necessary to throw your child into professional sports. It can be any physical activity at all: from power walking and swimming to dancing and gymnastics. Let the child choose what he or she likes. The important thing is establishing a regular workouts – exercising at least 3 times a week for 1 hour, and the process bringing enjoyment – then the child will develop a need for regular exercise and start loving the sport.

Physical activity can be accompanied by developing resistance to the cold. For many people this process is associated with winter bathers, who take shower bathes in freezing temperatures, but for an ordinary child it is enough to dress him according to the weather instead of wrapping him in layers upon layers of cloth or trying to protect him from the slightest draught.

Adequate nutrition

We have already touched upon the importance of nutrition in the previous section, and indeed, a balanced diet is essential. The body should receive enough useful substances for growth. At the same time, excess calories and unhealthy foods should be avoided – this type of diet can lead to obesity, which will adversely affect health.

An intuitive diet when a child eats what he or she wants, but the choices presented consist only of healthy foods, can be a good option. In this situation, parents and children would have their own roles in establishing proper nutrition diet. Parents would have to plan the menu, buy food and cook it. Children would have to choose what they want to eat from the offered variety, how much and when.

This conscious approach to nutrition should develop into a habit, a way of life, instead of being a temporary solution. For example, sometimes when parents notice that their child gained weight they start shaming him and forcefully limiting his diet. But this tactic does not produce long-term results, instead  leading to breakdowns and subsequent weight gain.

Personal hygiene

Developing hygiene skills in children is also important for their overall health. It includes the following:

  • regular showers and washing hair; 
  • teeth brushing twice a day;
  • hand washing after taking a walk or going to the restroom, before eating and whenever else necessary;
  • keeping clothes and shoes clean.

It is important not only to make the child do something, but also to explain the reasons behind it. Hands may have germs on them if not washed, clothes may smell unpleasant if not cleaned, and the teeth may start rotting if not brushed. The best way to introduce cultural and hygienic skills to children of primary school age is in the game form; for example, you can cross the days when the child brushed his teeth or washed his clothes on the calendar.

Safe environment at home and at school

Constant fighting between parents, trying to study at night in the middle of a meltdown, being bullied by classmates or teachers will inevitably lead to stress, which is detrimental to health and increases the risk of depression. That’s why you should teach your child:

  • to communicate calmly and without shouting;
  • to talk about what’s bothering them;
  • to understand and express their emotions in a way that is safe for themselves and others;
  • to make decisions and take responsibility for their actions.

If your family makes a habit of communicating in that way then it will gradually become a natural model of communication for the child as well.

How to develop healthy lifestyle skills

the formation of hygiene skills in children

More often parents finally decide to make serious changes in lifestyle when child’s unhealthy habits have already been firmly established. They have to not only instil healthy lifestyle in their children, but also to break them out of bad habits. And in order to do that first parents have to identify these unwanted habits, come up with a decent alternative and make this alternative available. There is no point in simply forbidding the child to watch the TV, you need to help him or her choose a sports section, draw a schedule and take the child there if necessary.

We offer you several methods to help you develop healthy lifestyle in your children, both from scratch and after bad habits have already been formed:

  1. Personal example. Teaching children about chips being bad for health is difficult while parents eat them all the time in front of them. Before trying to introduce your children to a healthy lifestyle, first consider what bad habits your child can copy from you and change them.
  2. Support and active participation. Chances are that a child, especially in junior or secondary school, will not be able to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle by himself, he will need your help. You should make sure that the new rules are followed, remind of them if needed, and actively apply them yourself. 
  3. Accessibility.  Make sure that the child has the opportunity to follow a healthy lifestyle. For example, if you decide to add more vegetables to your diet, the vegetables should always be available at home. If you want your child to be more active, let him or her go for walks more often and organise visits to sports clubs, and so on.

Of course, it is important to consider your child’s personality and capabilities and to use personal touch, but these methods are the framework for behaviour change. You can also use the patented method of behavioural psychology – 7Spsy Behaviour Modification Technique, for learning and developing healthy lifestyle skills. Our psychologists will help the pupil to master the necessary skills through the special behavioural model modification program. The child will have to perform all exercises independently, without active participation of parents, but psychologists will always be in touch, ready to offer their support or answer any questions. The form of communication, be it by phone, mail or on-line chat, is also chosen by children themselves.

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Behavioural methods and daily exercises provide faster results (compared to short weekly meetings with the psychologist), so in 2-6 weeks the child will learn healthy habits, strengthen them over time and eventually will be able to incorporate them into his lifestyle.

The ability to live a healthy and fulfilling life, the love for sport and life in general are the most useful gifts we can give to our children.