How to Create a Healthy Home Environment for Children
Contributed by SafeChildren.info
Your child’s environment influences his behavior. That means if you want structure, order, and calm in your child’s life, you need a home that promotes those things. While nothing in life can guarantee a fuss-free child, making these changes at home promotes good behavior and healthy choices in growing kids.
As much as they rebel against it, children love structure and routine. As Aha! Parenting explains, routines provide children a sense of security and encourage self-discipline. While it’s true that too much structure can leave everyday life dull and devoid of spontaneity, too little leaves kids so preoccupied with the fear of the unknown that they can’t focus.
Keep a regular schedule in your home. Wake up, eat meals, and go to bed at consistent times, establish a time and space for study and another for play, and keep a family calendar so kids know when something different is scheduled. Create rules and consequences, and enforce them consistently. Within that structure, allow for controlled rule-breaking: staying up late on a weekend night, eating breakfast for dinner, or putting off chores to take advantage of a sunny day. Occasional exceptions like these keep family life fun without undermining established routines.
Designate Private Spaces
Everyone deserves a space to themselves, kids included. Solitude is a valuable tool for stress relief, especially when a child is feeling overwhelmed or overstimulated. Create spaces where children can retreat when they need to be alone. This may be a bedroom or another private area. Equip the solitude space with a comfortable chair, artwork, and supplies for creative pursuits. Ensure everyone in the family understands that when someone is in their solitude space, they’re not to be disturbed. At the same time, explain to children that the space isn’t a tool for avoiding chores or other family obligations.
Your child deserves to feel safe in his home. Consider who you allow into your home and their influence on your child’s behavior. This goes for strangers knocking at the door as well as friends and family who might undermine your parenting or negatively influence your child’s behavior. If that person is your spouse, refer to the Child Development Institute’s advice to improve co-parenting.
Sometimes the safety risks come from inside the home. Ensure dangerous items are stored where your children can’t access them. Store firearms unloaded in a locked cabinet, keep poisonous household products on high shelves and watch closely while in use, and place alcohol and prescription medications in locked cabinets and monitor their contents.
Lead a Healthy Lifestyle
Children look to their parents for guidance on how to live. Make sure you’re setting a positive example by leading a healthy lifestyle yourself. The most obvious examples are diet and exercise: Parents should prepare healthy meals and dine as a family to influence their children’s food choices, and plan family activities involving exercise to promote a fit and active lifestyle.
As important as diet and exercise are, healthy living doesn’t stop there. Parents should moderate alcohol consumption and abstain from illicit drugs. Instead, demonstrate healthy ways to cope with stress like going on walks, doing breathing exercises, or talking about emotions. Avoid negative self-talk, especially surrounding body image. Rather, model positive self-talk and restrict negative ruminations to private conversations with a spouse or mental health professional.
As a parent, your number one focus is keeping your kids safe, healthy, and happy. But if you’re solely focused on protecting your children from outside threats, you may be neglecting the dangers in your own home. By eliminating safety risks in your home and making your kids feel safe and supported, you create a home environment where your children can thrive.
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