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How To Teach Your Children Healthy Habits

In honor of National Women’s Physicians Day, I am excited to share what being a female doctor means to me.

It means celebrating science and being up-to-date on the latest advancements.
It means advocating for STEM in schools and in early childhood.
It means advocating for my fellow women doctors and medical students.
It means being a doctor and now a mother: two roles I’m very proud of.
It means that I can be a role model to young girls who have big dreams, regardless of what those dreams may be.

My journey to becoming a doctor was a long one. Four years of undergrad, one year of working in research, four years of medical school, and three years of pediatric residency.

I gave my 20s to this career and so many times I wondered if it was worth it.

The long days, the sleepless nights, the stress, and the exams, the 80-hour workweeks. Was it worth it?

The 250k of student loan debt. Was it worth it?

The occasional male attending who was sexist. The female attendings, nurses, or senior residents who weren’t always uplifting. Was it worth it?

Not being able to see friends and family. Missing out on important events like weddings, birthdays, or baby showers. Was it worth it?

Yes. It was. Every day I get to have an impact on a child’s health and well-being. I am able to discuss with fellow parents how to optimize aspects of their child’s life.

I became a Pediatrician because I see firsthand how the habits we create early on affect us later in life.

Our relationship with food, our sleep habits, our body image, and how we handle stress have a foundation in childhood.

So how do we teach children healthy habits?

1. Model the Behavior You Want

If you want your child to eat vegetables, model it. If you want your child to be respectful of all people, model it. If you want your child to prioritize relationships, model them. If you want your child to have a positive body image, model it. It begins with us. It begins with understanding our insecurities and what we want for our children and modeling this behavior.

2. From a Young Age, Introduce Fruits and Vegetables Consistently

In order to raise a veggie-lover, it’s important to stay consistent and persistent with the introduction. Exposure. Exposure. Exposure. They may not love it all, but even exposing them to a new vegetable is a win. I usually advise a fruit with every breakfast and a vegetable with every dinner and fruits/veggies as a bonus snack throughout the day.

3. Set Up Healthy Sleep Habits

Sleep is VITAL. It helps our memory, it helps our immune system, it helps our mood, and it is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. Teaching good sleep to children means setting boundaries on sleep-time. Children should not be sleeping late. They should have a consistent schedule, with some variation for special events of course! Teach your child the importance of sleep by explaining to them the benefits and modeling good sleep habits. I encourage helping your child learn independent sleep skills by 2 years of age as independent sleep is an important skill for kids to know. How to fall asleep and stay asleep is a skill and sometimes we need to help them.

4. Teach Your Child A Growth Mindset

Honor their effort and not the end result. Comment on their work ethic. Tell them phrases like, “you are brave. You can ask for help. It takes time to learn a new skill. Your brain is growing and learning.” A positive growth mindset sets them up for success and a healthy mind.

5. Move Your Body

Model this behavior and encourage exercise multiple times a day. Ideally for 30 minutes 4 times a week. Moving our body keeps our mind and brain healthy.

6. Drink Water

Limit sugary drinks. Sugary drinks are not beneficial to our bodies. Prioritize water. Water is what nourishes our brain, muscles, and bodies!

7. Limit Screens

Model this behavior and set limits for your child. If your child is active and takes care of all required activities, screens are a great part of our busy lives. But prioritize family time, independent play, and exercise as much as possible.

Taking care of children and teaching them healthy habits can seem like hard work.

But with proper modeling, patience, and consistency, we can help them create a healthy mindset.

Dr. Mona Amin is a Board Certified General Pediatrician and mother. She works in private practice and her passions include early childhood development, focusing on the impact of healthy sleep, a healthy relationship with food, and healthy coping skills in the first five years of a child’s life.

On her Instagram account (@pedsdoctalk), her podcast (The Pedsdoctalk Podcast), and her YouTube channel (Pedsdoctalk TV) she shares educational information on parent’s most common concerns (i.e. fevers, rashes, viruses, behavioral issues, etc.) including current events.

Through her brand Pedsdoctalk, her goal is to provide relatable and easy-to-digest education for the modern parent regarding the health and wellness of their child.

She has been featured on Lucie’s list, Romper, CondeNast Traveler, VeryWell Family, and was named one of Insider’s Top Pediatricians to follow on social media for 2020.

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