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Health Note: The ‘Big Three’ for Healthy Kids
Kids also need opportunities to exercise in different ways so that they can find the sport or activity they like. Remember that school-age kids tend to emulate their parents. “So if Mom or Dad is doing yoga or taking a walk every day or biking, that’s teaching the child,” Halfon says.
2. Pay attention to mental health. While the number of kids with life-threatening illnesses is decreasing, the number of developmental and mental problems is increasing. “Those are things that pediatricians should be screening for,” Halfon says. When caught early, these problems can often be managed and treated. Left untreated, the problems can compound.
Around 20 percent of adolescents have a diagnosable mental health problem, and “most of the development of mental health disorders starts early on,” Halfon notes.
3. Advocate for healthier communities. Halfon advises parents to work toward making communities healthier for children. The increasing childhood asthma rate speaks to the need for cleaner air, both indoors and out, so take stock of air quality at home and advocate for greener schools that limit use of pesticides and other chemicals.
Transportation is another environmental hot button. “Something that drives me crazy is being around all these school buses that spout horrible diesel pollutants,” Halfon says. “We should be advocating for more opportunity for children to walk and use bicycles.”
In a world where we’re often anxious about our family’s well-being, giving our children a strong foundation in health and fitness is one of the best things parents can do, Halfon says. “It’s like we’re getting them ready for a long backpacking trip. You just want them to be ready, to be as healthy as possible.”
Christina Elston is a health writer for Dominion Parenting Media.
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