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Part 5: Keeping Your Child Happy and Safe  >  Healthy Habits


If you follow healthy habits, your child will be motivated to adopt them too. By setting a good example in healthy living, you can play a major role in inculcating such habits in your child from an early age.

Keep the following 5 simple rules in mind for healthy and happy living:

  • Adequate sleep

  • Regular exercise

  • Right type of food

  • Personal hygiene

  • Growing up in harmony with Nature

In my practice, I see many children who present problems related to lack of sleep. 

The typical story is that of a school going child who has to catch her school bus at 7.30 a.m. She sleeps at 11.30 p.m. and is made to get up at 6.45 a.m. There is a mad rush after that for everything — the toilet, the bath, and dressing. The bus is to arrive any moment. The mother hands her a glass of milk. She has a few sips and wants to leave the rest. The mother insists that she finish it. She attempts to and then vomits out everything. Such children are often brought to me for vomiting every morning. Interestingly, a detailed history reveals that they do not vomit on holidays.

Other victims of inadequate sleep present problems of tiredness and lack of attention in school. Young school going children need 10 to 12 hours of sleep at night. Teenagers need 9 to 10 hours of sleep. The bedtime must be fixed, except perhaps during the holidays. Even parents need enough sleep. An occasional late night is all right. Parents who follow the dictum of ‘Early to bed, early to rise’ set the right tone for healthy living. Children must be helped to go to bed early. Set an example for this healthy habit. Once you get used to the freshness of the early morning, you will never want to miss it.

Each cell of our body needs oxygen. Every muscle and joint needs movement. Inactivity leads to complications secondary to loss of calcium from bones and can give rise to various symptoms like general weakness, boredom and constipation. It has an adverse effect on the fluid balance inside our body and on the endocrinal as well as the muscular, skeletal, respiratory and cardiovascular systems. It can, of course, lead to problems like obesity with all its attendant risks. 

Healthy parents exercise regularly and pass this habit on to their children. Moderate physical activity in the early years reduces the risk of heart disease later in life.

Exercise can take any form. Encourage the child to take part in sports like kho-kho, kabbadi, badminton, tennis, basketball, football, hockey, swimming, bicycle riding, etc. If children show an inclination, let them get involved in wrestling, judo, karate or athletics. Invite the child to join you on a brisk walk, jogging, or just going up and down the stairs of a high-rise building.

Healthy parents exercise regularly and pass this habit on to their children

Healthy parents exercise regularly and pass this habit on to their children

Healthy parents exercise regularly and pass this habit on to their children

Healthy parents exercise regularly and pass this habit on to their children

Offer your child fruits and raw vegetables from an early age. Do not introduce her too early to fried foods and too sweet or too salty preparations made from refined flour or maida.

The best way to develop healthy food habits in children is to practise healthy habits yourself. Avoid the preparation of foods that you know are not healthy.

The list of unhealthy foods includes all cold drinks (especially colas), fast foods which have too much salt and saturated fat, cream biscuits, sweets, coffee, cakes, pastries, chewing gum and potato wafers. According to an article in the Journal of Pediatrics, cola drinks appear to be strongly associated with calcium deficiency in children because of their high phosphorus content. Association of cola drinks with bone fractures has also been reported in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

As children grow, explain the difference between foods that are healthy and those that are not good for our system. If an older child insists, then let her have the so-called ‘unhealthy’ foods once in a while— say once a week. It is very likely that her friends are bringing such food to school from home, and being too rigid with an older child can backfire.

A child must be allowed to feed herself from an early age, even if she makes a mess. I have seen children aged 7 years being spoon-fed by their parents; this is not healthy. A healthy mind and an independent personality are even more important than a strong physique. Your child is likely to remain a spoonfed baby, dependent on others, if you treat her as a baby for too long.

Do not give your child sweetened water. Give her plain water — without adding sugar — from an early age. In most Indian cities, it is necessary to boil drinking water. After it comes to a boil, let it keep boiling for at least 5 minutes. Incidentally, boiling water is a better proposition than using water filters. The best source of pure water is, of course, coconut water and the water contained in fresh fruits.

Set a good example to help your child learn the principles of good hygiene from an early age. Since children often take a doctor’s advice rather seriously, consider seeking the help of your doctor in this connection. Care of the skin, nails, teeth, eyes, hair and genital areas is essential. These are the vehicles for many infections.

Moderation Is The Key
Don’t get obsessed with cleanliness. There is no need to wash all your child’s toys every day or to clean the floor twice a day. Ideally, your baby should get some infections while she is still being breastfed. The protective umbrella of breast milk ensures that she develops antibodies against many infections that she acquires as an infant or as a toddler.

Help your children develop an interest in Nature from an early age. Let them play with the mud, sand and water. Watch the stars on a clear night, a rainbow when rain alternates with sunshine, and the changing hues of the sky when the sun is setting.

Yes, let your children learn to appreciate the beauty of Nature and its wonders. Take them to the planetarium. Help them appreciate the vastness of the universe. Make them understand the role of Nature in keeping us alive. It will help them develop respect for the quiet job done by the earthworms, the snakes, the birds and trees and all that they see around them.

Let your child know that, like sunlight, water is our other friend. Get her used to touching cold water. Bathing with very hot water is not advised even for newborn babies. If the water is cold, remove the chill by warming it a little. Gradually, let children get used to taking cold water baths. 

Like sunlight, water is our other friend. Let your child get used to touching cold water. 
Like sunlight, water is our other friend. Let your child get used to touching cold water. 


7 March, 2016

Part 5
Keeping Your Child Happy and Safe
Healthy Habits
Family Issues
Prevention Of Accidents
Keeping Children Entertained
Spending the Holidays Together
Guide to Child Care
1 Pregnancy, Childbirth ...
2 The Growing Years
3 Feeding Infants, ...
4 Keeping Your Child Healthy
5 Keeping Your Child Happy
About Dr. R. K. Anand


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