By: Dr. Susan Bartell
A Healthier World: One Child At A Time
On April 7, 2010, World Health Day once again reminds us to value our health and turn our attention to the health of those in the world around us. It is not always easy to do all that we must to be healthy, and it can be even more challenging to think about the health of others—people we may not even know. However, the truth is, we are all connected. We live in one world, so our health—our global health—is in all our hands.
As a parent—or any adult that touches the life of a child—World Health Day is an opportunity to teach children that every small step counts. By acting locally in your own small part of the world to become healthier, create a healthier and safer environment, and influence others to do the same, the world will become a healthier place—a little at a time.
There are many ways to encourage a child to recognize the importance of her own health as well as to see the significance of having a healthy community—both local and global. While it may be impossible to teach these all at one time, you can enforce a few basic ideas and build from there. Once you start, your child will be equipped to continue the fight for a healthier world:
· Give your child all immunizations. Your child may be anxious or upset, however, make it clear that these are necessary to prevent serious illnesses. No apologies are needed, nor are bribes. Your child needs to know that immunizations are a gift, not a punishment.
· Enforce the use of ALL safety equipment and supervision. This includes helmets for all sports, knee and elbow pads, nets around trampolines and lifeguards. Don’t give in to peer pressure to look cool without equipment.
· Teach and reinforce basic hygiene for daily living. Tooth brushing, showering, hair washing and hand washing are a must! You’d be surprised how often you need to check to make sure a child is actually completing all of these with adequate frequency—even through adolescence! The absolute best way to prevent the spread of disease is through simple cleanliness.
· Talk frankly with your child about the dangers of cigarettes, alcohol, drugs and unprotected sex. Frequent, small conversations that are a part of your daily life are far more effective than one ‘big talk’. Begin with age-appropriate chats as young as six or seven-years old (discuss the dangers of cigarettes at this age).
· Encourage donating money to a reputable health cause. Help your child research an organization to which he would like to donate money. It may feel more meaningful if it is a children’s cause (like feeding or educating children, or funding children’s cancer research). Then consider ways to raise money to donate to the cause you choose.
· Become greener. The more you recycle and re-use—and teach your child to do the same—the healthier your local environment will become. Teach your child that as each of us chooses to live a greener life, the impact on everyone’s health will be positive–now, and for many years to come.
Dr. Susan Bartell is America’s #1 Family Psychologist. Her latest book is The Top 50 Questions That Kids Ask. You can learn more about her on her website at www.drsusanbartell.com