26 facts and tips to help you raise healthy children
Parenting is a hard job. You knew you’d be responsible for your child’s health and well-being, but no one told you you’d have to know so much!
Here are 26 things to keep in mind to help keep kids as healthy and happy as possible.
Allergies. Food allergies among children went up about 50 percent from 1997 through 2011. If you’re concerned your child has one, talk to your doctor.
Bullying. Kids who are bullied often experience depression and anxiety. They might also have lower grades and test scores as they become more likely to skip school. Keeping the lines of communication open at home can help, and so can talking to your child’s school about its approach to bullying.
Concussions. A concussion is a serious brain injury, and it can happen on playgrounds, during sports (not just football) and as a result of falls or accidents. If your child suffers a head injury, make sure he or she sees a doctor and eases back into academic, social and athletic activities at the appropriate time.
Diarrhea. See a doctor if your child has diarrhea and has signs of dehydration, appears ill, has bloody stool or abdominal pain, or if the loose stools persist for several days even without other signs.
Ear infections. Five out of 6 children get at least one ear infection by the time they’re 3 years old, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Fevers. If a baby younger than 2 months has a rectal temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher, call your doctor or go to the emergency department immediately.
Grumpiness. Is your tween grumpy? Adolescence and puberty can be trying for both boys and girls. Let your children know you’re there for them, and if you have concerns, talk to their doctor.
Hyperactivity. If your child is persistently hyperactive, is particularly aggressive or is experiencing academic or social challenges, talk to your family’s pediatrician.
Infections. Viral infections (like the flu) can’t be cured with antibiotics, so don’t be surprised if you leave the doctor’s office without a prescription. In many cases, you’ll want to treat the symptoms until the illness has run its course, about seven to 10 days.
Juice. “Juice is just childhood soda,” says Natasha Burgert, MD, a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Have kids stick to water as much as possible.
Kissing. Parents don’t want to think about this, but adolescence is often a time of sexual exploration. Learn what’s happening with your children’s bodies and hormones and what they’re experiencing emotionally so you can best help them navigate this time.
Lifestyle habits. Are you modeling healthy behaviors? Your own choices—like eating healthy foods, exercising and not smoking—have an impact on your child’s choices.
Media. Screen time is a challenge for parents of kids of all ages. The AAP advises limiting entertainment-based media to two hours a day. “There are changes that happen—specifically, an increase in aggression, an increase in obesity, an increase in sleep disorders—when recreational screen time [regularly] exceeds that,” Burgert says.
Nursing. The AAP recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of a baby’s life, then breastfeeding combined with introducing foods until at least a year. Breastfeeding can continue for as long as both baby and mom are on board.
Obesity. Childhood obesity in the U.S. has tripled over the past 30 years. About one-third of kids are overweight or obese. A healthy diet and exercise are the keys to prevention, of course, and your child’s doctor might be able to help.
Physical activity. A good rule of thumb, Burgert says, is 60 minutes a day of physical activity.
Questions. Kids have questions. Lots of them. Answer what you can—truthfully. And don’t be afraid to say you don’t know. Taking the time to research the right answer is a great example to set.
Relationships. Help kids understand the importance of good communication, respect and give-and-take in a relationship. You can direct teens to loveisrespect.org.
Sugar. Why is everyone fixated on sugar? Because “Americans in general consume too much,” Burgert says. And research shows that excess sugar intake can increase your risk of dying of heart disease even if you aren’t overweight. Start kids on a healthy path now.
Toddler tantrums. Young children can have temper tantrums for lots of reasons—hunger, sleepiness, frustration. Try to stay as calm as possible so you can be a soothing influence.
UV rays. Kids’ skin is sensitive and should be protected, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises. Shade is best, and don’t forget about sunscreen (for babies younger than 6 months, talk to your doctor), hats, sunglasses and protective clothing.
Vaccines. “When we make healthcare decisions for our children, we use our head and our heart,” Burgert says. “Science and research has never presented vaccination as controversial or dangerous in any way.” Talk to your doctor about the vaccine schedule.
Well visits. Even when vaccines are done, well visits remain important. “If we catch a small issue on a physical exam, we’re able to potentially prevent really big problems later,” Burgert says.
X-rays. Many parents worry about X-rays and kids. If your child needs an imaging test, you can seek out facilities that offer lower-dose options for children.
Yeah! Positive reinforcement can be a powerful tool in your parenting toolkit. Let your child know you’re behind him or her as much as possible.
Zzzs. With more and better sleep, kids of all ages have stronger immune systems, greater focus and better performance in school. They should aim for eight to 10 hours a night for teens, and even more sleep for younger children.