by P. Lloyd BScN RN
July 31st 2018
Keeping children healthy in body and mind is a full time job – hence parenthood being a full time job! The two types of health (physical and mental) feed each other. For example, what children eat impacts their ability to learn, sleep, play, and be active. Vice versa, their activities, sleep patterns, and acquisition of knowledge of the world inside and around them, in turn impacts how they view the fuel they put in their bodies. When it comes to the physical fuel, things can be a bit more obvious, for example, choosing fruits and vegetables over a steady stream of sugar and simple carbohydrates. However, when it comes to the mental fuel, things can be more subtle and sometimes harder for both parents and children to identify. Healthy mental fuel are things like positive reinforcement, praise for good choices and decisions, hugs, listening to a child’s version of the day’s events, and good eye contact when a child first sees you after a school day or even just coming in from outside. Seeing your eyes light up with a genuine smile on your face, can do more for a child’s self-esteem and good mental health than anything else. As a nurse I try and watch my facial expressions, especially around my young patients. I might just be mulling something over medically in my mind but if my face is frowning then both parents and child patients get worried for no reason and it causes stress. It’s the same with parenting – watch your “resting face” when you look at your children. Try and make your default expression a smile when you look at them (unless you’re disciplining them of course). You are feeding their good mental health the equivalent of an apple a day if you can.