Teaching our children to be functional human beings is a full-time job from the moment they are born until they head off to college. From showing them how to build a healthy plate to explaining the difference between first and second gear, there’s plenty we need to teach our children. Everything we do now affects the decisions they make for themselves down the road. Here are a few tips on how to encourage your child to be healthy and happy when they branch out on their own.

Toddler years

Toddlers are the most curious creatures on the planet. And the vast majority of their inquisitive nature is directed at you. They will mimic every move you make, including how you eat. As soon as they are old enough to chow down on solid foods, begin introducing them to a diverse range of nutritional items. It is not enough, however, to put carrots and broccoli on their plate, you have to eat these things, too. Further, now is the perfect time to teach them oral health habits that will improve their smile for life. Many dentists recommend their first checkup at two years old. After that, plan to take your child for a cleaning every six months. If you have yet to establish a relationship with a dentist in your area, look for one in your area.

School-agers

Once your child reaches elementary school, it’s time to prioritize personal hygiene. While they may have been content to walk around with applesauce stains on their shirts up until now, that’s typically not acceptable public behavior. Talk to your child about wearing clean clothes, bathing regularly, and how to use deodorant and other personal hygiene products. Remind your children that the way they look and smell affects how other people view them. Not taking care of their bodies may even lead to issues at work later in life, according to CNBC News.

Teens and tweens

For teenagers, there are a lot of “biggies” that have to be discussed. Peer pressure, sex, and safety behind the wheel are just a few of these. While they are all equally important, teaching them to drive safely is one way to potentially save their life. Each year thousands of teenagers die in automobile accidents. According to AutoInsurance.org, “Government statistics consistently show that of all the car accidents on U.S. highways every year, more than two-thirds are caused by teenage drivers.” One of the main reasons for this is that teenagers don’t have enough experience to drive safely. So what is the best way to keep your teenager safe? Start with ensuring they complete a comprehensive driver safety course. After that, ride with them. Teens who drive with a passenger of at least 35 years of age with them are 62 percent less likely to die in a car accident.

Kids of all ages

Children of all ages should also be taught the importance of exercise, socialization, and healthy relationships. Talking about drugs and alcohol, sex, crime, and other sensitive topics is also crucial so they don’t enter their adult years completely sheltered. The best piece of advice anyone can give you is to be open and honest with your child about everything. This does not mean that you should explain the opioid crisis to your four-year-old, but even the most difficult subject matter can be broken down in a way that makes it easily digestible for their age.

Parenting is unquestionably the hardest job there is. After all, you are literally raising the next generation of doctors, lawyers, and world leaders. It is up to you to ensure they have all the tools they need to make healthy decisions that will impact their personal and professional lives for all of their years.

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