Children, especially those that fall into the tween and teen categories, naturally want to test their limits and experiment with the freedom that comes along with their budding adulthood. And, as much as you want to keep them in your arms forever, you have to let them go. But before you do, you can take steps to help them make healthy decisions on food, sex and everything in between.
Drugs and alcohol
When it comes to drugs and alcohol, the sooner you begin talking to your children, the better. LiveScience reports that early intervention equals prevention. By around the age of 8, many children are exposed to misinformation and bad advice given by older siblings or other students in their school. And the problem may be worse if you live in an area that puts your child at risk of unsupervised exposure to drugs and alcohol. DrugRehab.org asserts that you can lower your child’s risk of substance use by choosing a high-quality neighborhood and setting into place security measures – including a strict curfew – that will keep your teen on track.
Kids can be picky eaters. Most experts agree that you can circumvent dinnertime drama by getting your children involved in the planning and preparation of the family meal. PBS.org also recommends giving themplenty of choices when it comes to what they eat. Provide them a “base” for their meal. This might be a plain chicken taco or a bowl of whole-grain rice that they can dress up with the extra vegetables of their choice. You should also stress the importance of staying hydrated and teach your kids the difference between drinking a soda or cup of coffee and drinking a plain glass of water. Caffeinated and sugary drinks don’t help the body stay hydrated while water, hot tea and milk do.
Fitness and exercise
Kids need exercise and should be encouraged to run, jump and play for at least an hour each day. CNN contributor Denene Millner explains that the vast majority of American children get most of their exercise during school recess, which is something that is sadly being phased out in many school districts in favor of more time in the classroom. Encourage your child to participate in afterschool activities that require physical movement. This may be anything from martial arts classes to simply paying basketball in the backyard.
Sex is an uncomfortable subject to discuss with your children. As parents, we don’t want to admit that our children will one day grow up and experience intimate relationships of their own. But children are aware of the differences in genders and how relationships work from an early age. And, as is the case with drugs and alcohol, kids will get information – most likely wrong information – from their peers. Starting in their preschool years, you can instill healthy attitudes about sex in your children by explaining in a positive and productive way that certain types of touch are off-limits until adulthood.
No matter how good a neighborhood you live or how close a relationship you enjoy with your children, there will always be other kids who go beyond their limits and try to take everyone else with them. Teach your child how to identify negative peer pressure and give them a way to escape a bad situation. For instance, if your 14-year-old is attending a birthday party without you, give her the option to text you a code word that signals she’s in trouble. Agree that, should this message be sent, you will help her make a quick exit by calling her to claim a family emergency.
More than anything, you must set a positive example for your child. Take care of yourself, both physically and mentally and let them see how positive relationships and friendships should look. By maintaining an open line of communication and gently guiding your child in the right direction, you will ensure he or she learns how to make good decisions for a lifetime.
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Amanda works for safechildren.info
You can contact her at Amanda@safechildren.info