Easy Ways to Teach Healthy Living to Your Tween

Encourage your tween to embrace a healthy lifestyle

Healthy lunch
A healthy lunch will help your tween make the most of the school day. Suzanne Clements/Stocksy United

As your child grows up you may notice that he or she is willing and able to take on some of the challenges and goals that you've tried to establish in your home. If you've made healthy living a priority in your household, you may notice that your tween is picking up on your habits and embracing a healthy lifestyle.

But if you think your tween is heading down a path that's not healthy and doesn't promote exercise, healthy eating and stress reduction, then you might need to intervene and prepare your tween for a lifetime of healthy decisions.

Here's how to encourage your tween to embrace healthy choices and be proud of a strategically healthy lifestyle.  

Help Your Tween Embrace a Healthy Lifestyle

Make Healthy Snacks Available: Sometimes kids make unhealthy choices simply because they are the easiest option. It might be easier for your child to reach for a bag of potato chips  than it is for him to wash, slice and peel an apple or pear. If you make healthy choices the easier option, you may notice that your tween is reaching for home brewed, unsweetened tea rather than soda, or hummus and pita chips rather than potato chips or candy.

Try to slowly but strategically replace unhealthy snack items with healthier alternatives and see what happens. You can also consider investing in a juicer or a smoothie maker or another novel appliance that might encourage your child to try his or her hand at meal preparation which can lead to healthier eating options.

Work Exercise Into Everyday Life: How you and other family members regard exercise will likely rub off on your tween. If you're not making time for exercise it's likely that your tween isn't either. Try to make daily exercise a family priority. You can take walks around the block, join a local Y or gym club, or learn a sport together.

And you don't have to spend a lot of money finding ways to incorporate exercise into your tween's life. A daily bike ride can be just as much fun and rewarding as a session at the gym. Hint: if you and your tween set specific exercise goals and chart your success and progress, you'll be more likely to reach them. 

Cook Together: It seems so simple, but engaging your child in the preparation of cooking family meals can entice your tween to eat healthier. Find time during the week to sit down and map out a week's worth of healthy dinners, school lunches, breakfasts, and snacks. Give your tween ample opportunity to choose recipes that he or she finds tasty, and then make time to prepare them together.

The simple process of cooking and being involved in the creation of the family dinner will be enough to nudge your tween to try new foods, textures and maybe even develop a palate for healthy and nutritious foods. 

Make Sleep a Priority: Many tweens and teens do not get nearly enough sleep. Why?

The lifestyle of a typical tween includes a busy school day, extracurricular activities, homework, family time, and of course the constant temptation of time sucking activities such as television, computer games and social media participation. All of them cut into your child's rest time, and after a while, sleep deprivation will take its toll.

To make sure your child has enough slumber time, you'll have to take notice of how much sleep your child is actually getting, and then adjust your child's schedule accordingly. Make sure your tween has time to wind down from his or her day before hitting the bed. Winding down activities can include reading, watching television, or taking a hot shower before bed. 

Plant a Garden: The simple act of growing your own veggies, herbs, and maybe even fruit can have surprising benefits to your child's health and nutrition. Anyone who puts effort and time into a garden will want to sample the bounty of their labor. Try to plant veggies that your tween is interested in eating—you could plant a "pizza" garden made up of veggies you'd use while making your own pizzas at home (such as tomatoes, garlic, basil, oregano, peppers) or you could go for a "salad" garden and plant a variety of lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. Involve your child in every stage of garden development, and then after harvest get him or her busy on cooking.

Balance Responsibilities: Life today is fast-paced, and it's hard for parents to teach children about balancing responsibilities with a personal life if they struggle with the concept themselves. But every child needs to learn how important it is to balance school, family time, and other responsibilities while still finding time alone to destress and recharge.

If you're struggling with maintaining a balance in your life, your tween is probably struggling as well. Decide if it's time to let some of your demands go. Can you limit extracurricular activities to a more manageable number? Should you limit the number of social or work function you attend? Take a look at your calendar, you family calendar and your tween's calendar to figure out ways to make more time for each other and the important things in life.

Get Trained: Your child is old enough now to learn about basic first aid. Prepare your tween to handle basic cuts and injuries, and teach your tween to learn the various items in your family's first aid kit. Your local Y or hospital may even offer courses to tweens and teens on first aid and CPR. Consider taking a class with your tween so that you are both ready for those emergency situations.

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