Parenting can definitely be a challenge. Between long hours, commuting, meal prep, impaired sleep, and the chronic worrying that might arise when raising children, it's easy to become overwhelmed and let the parenting slide. However, exposing children to toxic environments and neglecting a role as a primary parent can backfire, as your kids might grow up with undesirable values, habits, and insecurities if they are not protected early on.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients, who are often parents as well, on managing their schedules to minimize stress and follow through on engagements. For parents, the calendar is often populated with appointments and tasks situated around their children and the family home, such as taking children to soccer practice, picking up from school, and going to the grocery store and cooking dinner. Being a good parent comes with showing that you can be there for your children, and even if that "superpower" effect can drag you down at times, it's important to keep your kids safe from toxic elements so that they can grow up to be fully functioning, intelligent, responsible and compassionate adults.
Here are eleven ways to guarantee that your kids are raised in a desirable manner.
1. Encourage Meal Time Together
When family members eat dinner separately, it can increase tension and isolation within the family home over time. Plus, it leaves room for kids to surround themselves with mindless eating habits, media and other elements that can be toxic to their health in excess. Prepare a meal for the family to sit at the table or watch a movie with. As long as you're all together, it'll count as bonding time.
2. Eat Clean & Be A Good Role Model
According to experts, parents who eat junk food and unhealthy food can negatively influence their children's eating habits, as children model their parent's behaviors by example. Instead of eating takeout or picking fast-food chains regularly, try cooking more whole foods at home and introducing clean recipes into the family lifestyle.
3. Practice Gratitude Exercises As A Family
Studies show that being grateful can make us feel happier and healthier in where we are in our lives and feel more connected to those and the world around us. Once a week, ask everyone to do a gratitude exercise as a family, where each member lists something they are grateful for about another member. These exercises are a great way to check in and boost one another's mood and happiness.
4. Monitor Media
Putting a cap on television time or social media usage can help limit exposure to toxicity that can appear over various media outlets. While restricting will only encourage children to view more, setting a time frame might be helpful. For instance, no social media after dinner, as it's time to be with the family or relax with a fun activity before bed. You can also block a few networks or programs you don't want younger kids viewing.
5. Be Affectionate
Studies show that parents who are affectionate raise happier children. Giving your children love and compassion regularly, especially unconditional love shown through acts of forgiveness and empathy, can make them feel more confident in their positions in life and better able to trust and foster new relationships into adulthood. Making kids feel warm and accepted can prevent them from giving in to toxic environments.
6. Keep Your Own Anxiety To Yourself
If you are an anxious parent, it is totally understandable, as there are complications in work, parenting and social life that can be tedious to deal with. However, exposing your children to your anxieties could make them feel anxious themselves, and it could even lead to an anxiety disorder later on in life. As a parent, you should make your children feel safe and reassured, so unless there's a bigger issue that needs addressing, keep little worries quiet.
7. Promote Positive Body Image & Self-Love
Studies show that parents who have eating disorders are more likely to pass along the disease to their children due to the tense home environment and negative body-image sentiments. If you are a parent with an eating disorder, seek help from a professional or keep your thoughts and insecurities to yourself and promote self-love when around your children. Also, try not to monitor your children's diets too strictly or show personal calorie restriction when dining together.
8. Teach Them How To Set Boundaries
Toxic people are everywhere, and sometimes it's hard to read the signals early on. Yet, remaining within a toxic environment and network can damage wellbeing and mental health over time. Teach your children how to know the signals for unhealthy relationships and toxic people so that they can set boundaries for themselves and stay secure. Learning how to properly communicate with others and be direct is a great skill to sharpen.
9. Read Labels On Cleaning Products
According to certified healthy lifestyle coach Liz Traines, over email with Bustle, "laundry detergent, bath products, and household cleaning products" can all consist of toxins and chemicals that can affect your children's brain, bodies and well-being. Studies show that there are many chemicals that can cause damage, so knowing which chemicals to avoid will help them grow up in a cleaner and healthier living space.
10. Be Wary Of Sunscreen
Not only is it important to put sunscreen on your children repeatedly (around every two or three hours is ideal) when out in the sunshine, but it's also important to read labels and make sure that the sunscreen is a reliable brand, free of chemicals, and consists of a high enough SPF, advises Traines. Plus, some sunscreens have chemicals that can hurt the body and still expose skin to UV rays, which can lead to skin cancer.
11. Limit Alcohol In The Home
Parents who drink too often around children can encourage kids to desire alcohol too, which can lead them to drinking earlier on in adolescence (and perhaps being unsafe and irresponsible!), or develop a drinking problem later in life. If you absolutely must have a glass of wine with dinner, stick to one and try to choose a few days a week to forgo it when around children. Perhaps enjoy the glass with lunch, as opposed to a family dinner, instead.
While encouraging family bonding time, playful adventures and a balanced, healthy diet and lifestyle, it's also important to get rid of toxic elements that can contribute to a poor upbringing. Toxins exist in relationships and products and can be caused by a lack of healthy habits (such as exercise, food, and stress reduction), so be wary of labels and bad habits that can make a serious impact over time.
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