New Year is Here: Help Kids Have a Healthy 2006
The year 2006 has arrived, and with it comes a familiar role for parents � one of being ever-vigilant to keep children safe, healthy and happy. New Year�s is a good time for parents to rededicate themselves to their most important job � guiding and protecting their children.
With an eye toward a healthy 2006, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests the following New Year�s resolutions for parents:
Prevent violence by setting good examples
Hitting, slapping and spanking teach children that it is acceptable to hit other people to solve problems. Non-physical forms of discipline work better in the long run. Remember that words can hurt, too.
Make sure immunizations are up to date
Review your child's immunization record with your pediatrician. Make sure your child is current on recommended immunizations.
Provide your child with a tobacco-free environment
Indoor air pollution from tobacco increases ear infections, chest infections, and even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). If you smoke, consider quitting to protect your children and yourself. Remember, the most important predictor of whether your children will grow up to be smokers is whether you smoke. Make your home a smoke-free zone.
Read to your child every day
Start reading to your child by the age of 6 months. Reading to children shows them the importance of communication and motivates them to become readers. It also provides a context to discuss issues and learn what is on your child's mind.
Practice "safety on wheels"
Make sure everyone in the car is buckled up for every ride, with children in the back seat protected by age-appropriate child safety seats. All bikers, skaters and skateboarders should wear helmets and other appropriate sports gear.
Do a "childproofing" survey of your home
A child's-eye view home survey should systematically go from room to room, removing all the "booby traps" that await the curious toddler or preschooler. Think of poisons, small objects, sharp edges, knives and firearms, and places to fall. This would also be a good time to check the temperature setting on your hot water heater. To protect your children against scalding it should be no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Monitor your children's "media"
Monitor what your children see and hear on television, in movies, and in music. Children are affected by what they see and hear, particularly in these times of violent images. Talk to your children about "content." If you feel that a movie or TV program is inappropriate, redirect your child to more suitable programming.
Help Kids Understand Tobacco, Alcohol, and the Media
Help your teenager understand the difference between the misleading messages in advertising and the truth about the dangers of using alcohol and tobacco products. Talk about ads with your child. Help your child understand the real messages being conveyed. Help direct your child toward TV shows and movies that do not glamorize the use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs.
Pay attention to nutrition
Nutrition makes a big difference in how kids grow, develop and learn. Good nutrition is a matter of balance. Provide foods from several food groups at each meal. Emphasize foods that are less processed, such as whole grain breads and cereals and fresh fruits and vegetables. Review your child's diet with your pediatrician for suggestions.
Become more involved in your child's school and your child's education
Visit your child's school. Become active in the parent-teacher organization. Volunteer in the classroom or for special projects. Be available to help with homework. If your child's education is important to you, it will be important to him or her.
Make your children feel loved and important
Kids develop a sense of self-worth early in life. Listen to what your children have to say. Assure them that they are loved and safe. Celebrate their individuality, and tell them what makes them special and what you admire about them.
Resolutions aren�t just for grown-ups
Young people can make New Year�s resolutions, too. This is a good time to encourage children to commit to healthy habits, like those described below:
- I will clean up my toys.
- I will brush my teeth twice a day, and wash my hands after going to the bathroom and before eating.
- I won't tease dogs - even friendly ones. I will avoid being bitten by keeping my fingers and face away from their mouths.
Kids, 5- to 12-years-old
- I will drink milk and water, and limit soda and fruit drinks.
- I will apply sunscreen before I go outdoors. I will try to stay in the shade whenever possible and wear a hat and sunglasses, especially when I'm playing sports.
- I will try to find a sport (like basketball or soccer) or an activity (like playing tag, jumping rope, dancing or riding my bike) that I like and do it at least three times a week!
- I will always wear a helmet when bicycling.
- I will wear my seat belt every time I get in a car. I'll sit in the back seat and use a booster seat until I am tall enough to use a lap/shoulder seat belt.
- I'll be nice to other kids. I'll be friendly to kids who need friends - like someone who is shy, or is new to my school
- I'll never give out personal information such as my name, home address, school name or telephone number on the Internet. Also, I'll never send a picture of myself to someone I chat with on the computer without my parent's permission.
Kids, 13-years-old and up
- I will eat at least one fruit and one vegetable every day, and I will limit the amount of soda I drink.
- I will take care of my body through physical activity and nutrition.
- I will choose non-violent television shows and video games, and I will spend only one to two hours each day - at the most - on these activities.
- I will help out in my community - through volunteering, working with community groups or by joining a group that helps people in need.
- I will wipe negative "self talk" (i.e. "I can't do it" or "I'm so dumb") out of my vocabulary.
- When I feel angry or stressed out, I will take a break and find constructive ways to deal with the stress, such as exercising, reading, writing in a journal or discussing my problem with a parent or friend.
- When faced with a difficult decision, I will talk with an adult about my choices.
- I will be careful about whom I choose to date, and always treat the other person with respect and without coercion or violence.
- I will resist peer pressure to try drugs and alcohol.
Dr. Bob Wilmott is Chief of Pediatrics at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children�s Hospital and is a Professor of Pediatric Medicine at St. Louis University School of Medicine. If you have a child health question for Dr. Wilmott, go to the �Ask Dr. Bob� section of the Cardinal Glennon Web site at www.cardinalglennon.com.