With so many unhealthy choices available today, it’s difficult to steer your teen away from the types of behaviors that encourage an unhealthy lifestyle. The time before they leave home for college is the time to reinforce what you have taught them to about living healthy and making wise choices. When they leave home and begin living independently, it will be easy for them to continue those good habits.
1. Have consistent family mealtime
Families should have at least one mealtime when they eat together. It may be difficult in today’s fast-paced world, but it’s critical that you stick to this rule. You can teach them about healthy portions and healthy food choices when you are sharing a meal together. Let them participate in food preparation as well to teach them about healthy cooking habits such as limiting butter and salt. If you do this, you will send them off to college with the knowledge of how to prepare a healthy meal and that can come in handy.
2. Encourage them to participate in outside activities
Start at a young age to encourage them to get outside and participate in outdoor activities. Continue this into their teen years. Go on hikes together and have outdoor family activities. Participating in outside activities teaches them to stay active and prevents them from becoming sedentary in front of the television. If they see exercise as fun, it will be easier to get them outside participating in sports and family fun.
3. Limit their technology time
Technology can rob your teen of valuable time spent being active. With all the distractions today, it’s not only difficult to keep their attention, but it’s also hard to deflect it to other things. Limiting their time gives you an opportunity to teach them that there are so many other activities that are just as fun as texting with friends or playing games on the tablet.
4. Praise them when they make good choices
When your teen makes good choices (healthy snacks, active play over sitting in front of the television, and even choosing a healthy meal at a fast food restaurant), encourage them by praising them for those choices. Teens instinctively want to please their parents; and if they are praised for doing so, they will continue.
5. Get them involved in healthy choices
Let your teen help with grocery lists and choosing healthy lunches and snacks. Encourage them to do household chores which keeps them active and encourage them to choose an extracurricular sport to participate in after school.
6. Let them participate in meal planning
When you let your teen plan their snacks and lunches, a family meal or holiday feast, it teaches them to make healthy decisions. They also learn to make decisions and be responsible for the outcomes. You can also guide them as they choose which foods to add to the meals and how to prepare them.
7. Don’t use food as bribery
Just about every parent has done this: promise them treats if they obey. It may be effective but it’s not a good habit to teach them. Using food as a reward is one way to create food motivation, which can be detrimental if your teen grows up seeing food as a special reward and was not taught how to limit this reward.
8. Let them see you live healthy
Every parent has spouted off at one time or another, “do as I say, not as I do”. But realistically, teens mimic the behavior of their parents. If you lead by example by being active, eating healthy, and exploring activities outside the home, they are more likely to take on those healthy habits themselves.
9. Provide them with healthy options
Stocking your pantry and refrigerator with unhealthy food is the worst way to encourage healthy eating habits. If your kid lives in a positive, healthy environment they will become positive individuals. When your teen goes off to college, send them healthy snack care packages.
10. Stress regular exercise
Exercise is a key component to a healthy lifestyle. If they learn it at a young age and continue through the teen years, they will continue this habit when they head off to college.
Healthy living can be difficult, but the rewards are life changing. Later in life you and your teens will reap the benefits of your choices to live healthy.