For the healthy, well-rounded child
Every parent is concerned about raising healthy children in this busy age. But to do that effectively, parents must take certain steps to ensure that children reach their optimal health.
“I consider optimal health for children as having different aspects,” says Dr Asha Pemberton-Gaskin, paediatrician and adolescent medicine physician. “The three aspects are physical health to sustain normal growth and development, emotional health, and to raise our children with a sense of community connectedness.”
According to Pemberton-Gaskin, these three things must work in tandem to have a healthy, balanced and well rounded child.
“To provide optimal nutrition, parents should keep foods as wholesome and natural as possible,” Pemberton-Gaskin adds.
“Parents should reduce the amount of processed foods that children are fed because we really don’t know the long-term effect these processed foods have on their overall development.”
Pemberton-Gaskin adds that sugar should also be reduced and parents should make sure that their children are getting the adequate amount of sleep at night.
“Every child should have eight hours of sleep to help them to function at their full potential daily,” she said. “Parents should also be aware of limiting their child’s screen time. The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends having less than two hours of screen time a day in front of computers, hand-held games, and tablets.”
With technology and gadgets taking children’s attention, Gaskin adds that it’s important to help children get back to human interaction.
“Screen time takes away from family time and distracts them from other activities like playing freely and developing that human connectedness,” Pemberton-Gaskin says.
But along with the importance of maintaining good physical health, parents should not neglect a child’s emotional health.
“Good emotional health is important to help build resilient children,” she says. “It starts at an early age with parents teaching their children to love who they are and love their bodies. When children enter into the adolescent phase, it’s important to increase their positive self-concept, and to get them to accept their body image.”
Developing self-love is important to a child’s self-esteem and parents are critical to building a child’s self-esteem.
“It’s important to teach children of both genders to be in tune with their feelings,” she says.
“A disappointing result on the Common Entrance Exam is not the end of the world.”
Pemberton-Gaskin adds that developing family time is essential to this process, giving parents the opportunity to talk to and interact with their children. That time spent talking is key to finding out what is going on in the lives of your children.
“We have to teach young children how to communicate, express their emotions as well as listen to someone else and correctly interpret what they are saying,” the paediatrician says. “In terms of resolving conflicts, we have to teach children from a young age that people will have different opinions and values, but we need to respect other people. Bullying happens when there is that loss of respect for other individuals.”
The other crucial aspect in a child’s health is that sense of community involvement.
“Children should learn to volunteer or work within their society and contribute their ideas,” said Pemberton-Gaskin.
“That sense of community involvement is being lost in this social media-driven era. But children can do very creative things within their community, like recycle, help to clean up the beach or the gullies, or be involved in their church. It all helps in the child’s overall development.”