As parents, we want the best for our kids. We want them to have great friends, to do well in school, to be successful… the list goes on. But at the end of the day, our biggest want is just that they be happy and healthy. Happiness is tied to a million things both in and out of our control, but healthiness is a bit more of a long game.

As children, we all had people looking out for us – they’d do the cooking and cleaning, pay the mortgage and bills, and really, do all the grunt work – while we went to school and played. It was a good gig, looking back. But we all grow and become adults – adults with responsibilities. And those responsibilities take time and energy. The long days spent riding our bikes outside become hours sitting in front of a computer. Cleaning our room becomes cleaning the whole house. We have to cook our own meals – and, let’s be honest, sometimes it’s just easier to order in pizza than to make something healthy.

Your child will experience these same challenges: How do you want them to tackle them when the time comes? Now is the time to coach them into healthy habits.

Let them help you in the kitchen. Talk to them before cooking – have them help you plan meals. At first, they may request pizza every night or chocolate chip cookies: Use those moments as teaching moments. Educate them about healthy choices and why they’re important. They may not truly appreciate it at first, but by building an understanding early on, you can ensure your child will know how to make healthy eating choices as they grow and gain independence.

Be active yourself. Too many adults graduate high school and their athletic programs to fade into sedentary lifestyles. It isn’t necessarily intentional, but transitioning from childhood activities and athletics into an active adulthood is a common challenge. Your child may grow up to be a professional soccer player… but the odds are against them. So help them develop a regular running program that they can carry through life. If they’re a gymnast, bring them into an ongoing yoga or Pilates practice; if all else fails in later years, they can continue these from the comfort of their home.

Most importantly, be a role model. Children tend to follow their parent’s habits, so make sure they see your healthy living habits. Maintain your own activity, eat well, and be positive about your image – and let your children be a part of it!

Much of teaching your child to be an ambassador of their own health comes from integrating them into your household decisions and showing them what healthy living in adulthood looks like.

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