Parenthood is a fulfilling experience, but it comes with many responsibilities and choices. From when the child is conceived, you face decisions about what to call them, how to care for them, and how to ensure they get the best in life. A child’s health is one of the essential factors for their development and wellbeing. Parents are responsible for their children’s health until they grow old enough to care for themselves. The choices you make for your child’s health can affect them throughout their lives, so you must ensure you make the best decisions.
Here are the top 5 things parents should know about their child’s health and development.
Parents should be intentional about their child’s nutrition from birth. Recommended guidelines for newborns state that infants should receive human milk exclusively for the first six months and continue for the first year, and/or use iron-fortified infant formula.
As the child grows, their diet must consist of healthy and balanced meals. The dietary decisions you make for them can inspire their eating patterns as they grow older. Unhealthy nutritional choices can also increase their risk of developing health problems like diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
Colorful and flavorful meals are alright, but parents must be emphatic about diet quality. The type of carbs your child ingests is more important than the quantity. Parents should build meals around fruits, whole grains, vegetables, fresh fish, and fiber. As much as possible, avoid processed foods, sugar, salt, and saturated fats.
Children’s nutritional needs change as they grow older, so you may need to speak regularly with your pediatrician, or perhaps more importantly a nutritionist like myself, about your child’s diet.
Vaccination and Drugs
A vaccine is a live germ that is said to help the immune system develop protection against disease. Vaccines can prevent children from getting diseases that could threaten their lives or wellbeing. There are recommended vaccines for different stages of children’s development. There are many vaccines to receive, and parents may struggle to keep up. Many even debate if they should get them at all.
It is important to communicate with your pediatrician to know when your kid is up for vaccination. The vaccination schedule can also help parents know when they should vaccinate their children. Remember, this is your choice and if and when your child gets vaccinated, so be sure to do your research before agreeing to anything you don’t feel comfortable with.
Moreover, vaccines do not prevent all diseases, so your child will likely get ill sometimes and need medicines. Parents must know about medications for common pediatric conditions and how they work. This list contains 30 of the most commonly prescribed drugs for children. There are also many holistic options out there, so again, do your research.
It is also important that parents understand the basics of pediatric prescriptions they may get. If your child develops an eye condition, for instance, it may help to know how to read a contact lens prescription so you can work with the eye doctor to provide your child with the best possible care.
Personal hygiene prevents sickness and improves confidence, so you want to ensure your child learns this early in life. Teach your child to wash their hands with water and soap after using the restroom, before eating, and after playing with pets.
They should also learn to wash fruits and vegetables before eating. Covering their mouth with a tissue or handkerchief when sneezing or coughing should also be part of personal hygiene. Other hygiene tips to give your child include:
- Wearing clean clothes
- Brushing their teeth twice daily
- Keeping their nails trim and neat
- Bathing thoroughly and regularly
- Flushing the toilet after use
The best way to instill these behaviors into your child is by being an example to them. Children learn by imitation and are more likely to imitate habits they see in their parents and those around them.
Developing good sleep habits is another critical part of your child’s physical and mental development. Poor sleep affects concentration, immunity, behavior and increases your child’s risk of disease, accident and injury. Encourage good sleep habits in your child by creating a bedtime routine. You can teach them to bathe or listen to a bedtime story each night, so they are ready to sleep when the time comes.
Your child’s bedroom should be sleep conducive. Take out distracting objects like noisy or blinking toys. They should also learn that the bed is for sleep and not for play or doing homework, so they are not tempted to do those things at bedtime. Speak with your pediatrician if your child is not getting sufficient sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends the number of sleep hours for children within these age ranges:
- 4 to 12 months – 12 to 16 hours
- 1 to 2 years – 11 to 14 hours
- 3 to 5 years – 10 to 13 hours
- 6 to 12 years – 9 to 12 hours
- 13 to 18 years – 8 to 10 hours
Emotional and Mental Development
It is important that parents also attend to their child’s emotional needs. Every child is different and develops uniquely, so you must look out for their all-around wellbeing. Many mental and emotional problems begin at a young age, so it is crucial to catch and resolve them early.
Your child’s emotional and mental development will influence their self-awareness, decision-making, and relationship-building skills, which are markers for success in life. Children with emotional guidance will struggle in social settings, setting them up for depression, anxiety and giving them a low sense of self-worth. Signs of emotional problems to watch out for in a child include:
- A Sudden drop in academic, sporting or extracurricular performance
- Loss of desire to play or go out with their peers
- Loss of interest in their toys or hobbies
- Appetite changes
- Poor sleep that often comes with nightmares
Parents can contribute positively to their child’s emotional and mental development by:
- Speaking with them about their feelings
- Helping them set achievable goals
- Praising them when they do great things and encouraging them when they don’t
- Avoiding harmful speech that can affect their self-esteem
- Taking appropriate disciplinary measures when they go out of line
Parenting can be demanding, and you may not always know what to do. Your child’s health is paramount, and you want to ensure they are getting the best possible care. As a parent, you should stay in touch with your pediatrician to provide helpful insights into your child’s physical, emotional, and mental welfare.