Teaching Children about Wellness: 5 Areas of Focus
Wellness isn’t just about healthy eating. It is a state of health in both body and mind. Wellness comes from intentional practices like preventing disease, proper nutrition, and physical activity. Some consider up to five areas to focus on for teaching children about wellness:
Others also consider environmental, financial, and occupational health as additional dimensions, but we’ll leave that debate for another time. For the purposes of this post, we’ll focus on the main five dimensions of well-being.
By encouraging continuous learning early, we help our children form a commitment to lifelong learning. Introduce new ways of learning. There is more to life than television and Google! Take your child to a kids museum or an interactive event. Take him to the library or to meet people in the community like our police or firefighters. These activities encourage curiosity and the desire to figure things out (a.k.a. learning)! Even everyday outings can be opportunities for teaching children about wellness.
Limit screen time. Television time and computer time should be monitored and timed. There is a correlation between screen time and obesity, but even more so, screens cause us to limit ourselves intellectually. Remember that children model what we, as adults, do. So if we have the television on all day or we sit in front of the computer for hours on end, our children learn those behaviors.
Stress takes a heavy emotional toll on children. Take care to remove a child from stressful environments. Even if it might not be stressful for the child, if it’s stressful to you, your child can (and most likely will) pick up on that.
It’s equally important for children to learn healthy stress responses. These are typically learned from a child’s caregiver or maternal figure. Learning healthy reactions to stress early can help lessen fear and anxiety in adulthood. In addition, according to a study published by Harvard, significant stress also “threatens the function of other organ systems, leading to higher rates of hypertension, obesity, and diabetes.”
Obesity and nutrition are typically what we think of when we hear the term “wellness.” Proper nutrition and physical activity are obvious ways to positively impact our physical well-being. It’s actually harder to do than people realize. With so many articles and differing opinions on “proper nutrition” and the right levels of activity, it’s tough to make those choices for your children and even harder when it comes to teaching children about how those choices affect their wellness.
The older we get, the harder it is to learn new habits and form new behaviors. Early childhood is when we need to develop the healthy habits necessary to live healthy lives as adults.
What is the meaning of life? Understanding our own individual sense of purpose is key to spiritual wellness. This means something different to each of us. The important thing to remember here is to acknowledge and respect that each one of us has a different “meaning of life.”
Some find meaning in a higher power and prayer, some find spiritual well-being with helping others, while some will find a purpose in healing.
While this sounds a little too deep for young children, helping a child find and understand his sense of purpose-–even if it’s small, like wanting to go to Sunday school or exploring his love for animals––helps break any barriers of confusion or doubt he might have if it doesn’t necessarily match those of other children. Introducing children to healthy, new ideas, environments, and activities help open their minds to bigger possibilities. Be sure to be patient with their questions and answer them as openly as you can.
Encouraging children to participate in an expressive activity like dancing, singing, drawing, painting, or even storytelling can help develop social and cognitive skills, enhancing a child’s social well-being.
As our lives get busier, it’s harder than ever. But try to have meals together as a family. This helps not only build those relationships with family but also promotes emotional and intellectual wellness too.
The main thing to remember is that children learn from adults. Teaching children about wellness is as much about teaching as it is about doing. They mimic the behaviors they see as well as what we teach them. In order to teach our children healthy habits, we need to live the same healthy habits for the lifelong well-being of our children.
Additional wellness resources for parents: