Today is my parent’s 31st wedding anniversary! Yippee!!!
So a few days ago, I asked my mom to write down a few tips for raising healthy children. My expectation was just a list of a few things that she feels she got right while raising my siblings and I which I could post on my blog. However, anyone who knows my mother, will know she doesn’t do ANYTHING halfhearted. So within 24 hours of my request, there lay in my email inbox a gem. I am really pleased to share this with you, everything written below is exactly the environment my mother created lovingly for her family. I hope and pray I can do the same for mine.
USEFUL TIPS FOR RAISING HEALTH CONSCIOUS CHILDREN
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6 KJV)
I am grateful to The Lord God Almighty for His awesome ways of helping us with the tasks He assigns each of us on this side of eternity. The book of Proverbs (in the Bible) provides very useful guidelines for life & parenting.
Also, a lot of the healthy habits our mothers insisted that we inculcate as children have been useful to me in raising mine to eat healthy. Many of the things we did/did not do in my own home were learned from observing the effects of people’s habit on their overall health. Here is a sifting of what has been useful in raising children in my environment:
• Keep Order in the family: This is very important since the home has to have known values to guide the children. Not much was written down in my home but certain examples of appropriate hygiene & discipline were spelled out for every member of the family to observe as a sign of love & appreciation of each person. The older members of the family obeyed the same rules (without compulsion) and children learn by example.
• Food: This was tricky; I was not a good example of a healthy eater as a child. However, I learned a number of truths as I grew up. I have since thought of ways to enhance the preparation of local dishes for young children to look forward to mealtimes with joy. The items I had to include regularly with meals were fruits, vegetables & fish. Those were a hard for me to eat as a child but Mama (my mother) insisted on them! I am glad she did because we survived the Nigerian civil war without malnutrition (kwashiorkor), the leading cause of death in young children. Here are some tips:
a) Provide washed and attractive (colorful) fresh fruits within reach of the children. The dining area & refrigerator are their usual call for snacks. This is a subtle way of introducing them to the variety of tastes. It costs less if one provides the seasonal fruits.
b) Use fruits at meal times in cereals to enhance taste. This reduces their craving for sugar. Also think ahead of the meals to provide appropriate fruit(s). Bananas were quite helpful while plantains introduce picky eaters to beans, yam & rice. These should not always be fried.
c) Note what is preferred and find out why. Explain some of the food needs to them as they get older but respect allergic reactions to certain foods. [My youngest child HATES bananas and pineapples, not due to an allergic reaction but the smell/taste could make him nauseous so I replaced bananas with oranges, mangos and guavas.]
d) Vegetables prepared in stews, soups & salads should be served at mealtimes. When the children watch the adults eat those with relish, they are more inclined to acquire the habit.
e) Fish fried/poached/steamed/smoked, if deboned is easier to eat. Help children choose fish over meat by adding fresh flavors to enhance the taste. Herbs like scent leaf (nchuanwu) etc are useful as well as celery, spices and sweet peppers.
f) Think about presentation & portion size. You are encouraging them to develop personal disciplined relationship with food. It helps if they learn early not to treat food as a crutch or a chore.
g) Encourage cooking and eating at home. This will help children choose in the future what can be ingested. Home cooking usually has less additives & unhealthy oils. If finished & processed foods are de-emphasized at home, it is easier to shun them later in life. Our taste buds learn a lot in childhood & for many people, it takes disease to change the bad habits learned early in life.
h) Encourage your children to drink water by doing so yourself. Be careful about filling the refrigerator(s) with packaged juices, soft drinks & fancy beverages. Explain to the children why they need water. The body organs need water to function properly. This cannot be over emphasized.
• Meals: Plan meals according to the needs of the family & the time available to eat them. It is helpful to eat as often as possible (at home) together as a family. Children learn other values at such times.
• Exercise: Many of our young people are not inclined to physical exercise routines or discipline. Indeed, many schools do not give as much attention to this as they do to academic work. The recent Olympics showed how much less emphasis Nigerians have given to that area of our development. Encouraging our children to enjoy exercise will help them in the future to desire & cultivate the attitude.
• Emotional Security: Avoiding using food for reward or punishment always will help in the future. Don’t love your child to death.
• Sleep and adequate rest: Limit TV watching & the use of the several gadgets to let their brains & bodies rest.
• Practice what you preach: Often, we work against the goals we have set because of poor examples. Children watch us daily & can tell what we cherish. They will also test boundaries. Set boundaries you can enforce and if you need to make changes, let them know why if they are at an age you can have a discussion with them. It helps to start early.
• Peer Pressure: Confident children influence others. If your children partner with you, they will be able to resist bad attitudes among peers.
Pray for your children. They are precious gifts from God ~Psalm 127:3
Hmmm… I wonder what other great information I could share? Thanks for reading, commenting, liking and subscribing to my blog!