5 Lessons To Teach Your Kids About Healthy Living

Now more than ever, we’re a culture that places a lot of emphasis on health and wellness. Apps, sites, and even airports offer access to meditation, yoga, or other forms of “mindfulness” and good-health practices.

The fact that we’re all thinking of our well-being in a more holistic way is wonderful. Are we taking care of our mental and emotional health? Are we exercising for joy? Are we listening to what our bodies are telling us when we’re hungry or thirsty or sad or focused? 

These are complicated lessons for adults to learn. So how do we underscore to our kids the importance of mental health in tandem with physical wellnessHere are a few tips for teaching your children the skills they need to honor their health for the rest of their lives.


According to the Cleveland Clinic, growing kids need a set schedule and routine to get the most out of their sleep at night. Maintaining consistent deadlines and wake-up times (yes, even on the weekends) will ensure your child is fully resting and rested. You’ll further enhance sleep by making sure the little ones avoid sugar or caffeine in the hours before bedtime, and an hour of quiet time right before they go to sleep.


At worst, vegetables are perceived as punishment food, the hold-your-nose-and-swallow part of your plate that you save for last, that you can’t leave the table before finishing. At best, they’re a side dish, propping up a protein- or carbohydrate-heavy main course.

Nothing wrong with protein or carbohydrates (in moderation, as all things), but have you had roasted brussels sprouts with cayenne and balsamic vinegar? Charred broccoli with butter and garlic? Green beans blanched till crisp and bright green, dressed with mustard seeds and julienned basil, or cauliflower seared and spiced like steak? Let the kids fall in love with vegetables on their own merits. With the right preparation, vegetables are an easy, nutrient-dense food to fall in love with. It just takes a little bit of deprogramming to see the magic.


“Exercise” has that vegetable problem. Nobody wants to “work out.” But a lot of people love to go swimming or hiking or play basketball. Share the joy of physical movement with your children when they’re young and build an association between movement and feeling good. As kids get older and screens more unavoidable, establish movement time for one hour per day. That hour can be used for anything physical: yoga, walking, sports, cleaning the bathroom. Anything that keeps the body moving.


When we forbid certain foods, or make certain treats a “special occasion,” you send a message that those foods should be indulged in, binged, or relished. That can prompt a desire to eat up all of the tasty treat, or hoard it. When we don’t restrict food, then we can focus on what our bodies desire and need. When food doesn’t seem precious or rare, it can be enjoyed for what it is, without shame. 


As children learn to navigate the complexity of their emotions, it can be tempting to distract them from sad or bad feelings. Instead of encouraging a crying child to smile and feel better, express sympathy. Tell them you’re sorry they’re hurting. Then work to help them move forward. As they spend time with how they feel, they’ll understand themselves better. Which is, of course, very healthy.