Growing up with healthy habits in today's world isn't easy, especially for young girls, who seem to be bombarded with contradictory and often damaging messages about their health.
Luckily, parents have the ability to cut through the noise, especially if they start early.
By teaching your daughter healthy habits from a young age, you are investing in her well-being for years to come.
Whether you feel you've achieved your own healthy balance, or are still fighting for it, there are a few universal lessons you can teach your daughter right now.
Consider All Aspects of Health
To teach healthy habits, you first have to consider all facets of health.
It is all too common to focus solely on eating and exercise, and unfortunately, this narrowed definition of health exacerbates the cultural problem that today's young women face—the message that their value lies primarily in their bodies.
Teach your daughter now that her health and wellness are so much more than the state of her body.
Consider social health, mental health, emotional health and even environmental health as you begin to teach her healthy habits.
For example, how does your daughter handle stress? Does she struggle with anxiety? Does she put herself down with negative self-talk? Start building her toolbox for dealing with these feelings, and don't be afraid to dive headfirst into even bigger issues—her sense of purpose (spiritual health), her ability to ask for help (emotional health) or her need to build supportive relationships (social health).
Even just having these conversations teaches an important lesson: Healthy habits are intentional, and they take work.
Model Healthy Behavior
The desire to live a healthy life begins at the source, and as her parents, you are your daughter's first exposure—and motivation—for making smart choices.
Speak up regularly for what you believe in, and don't ridicule your own body. Realize that she will model your behavior. What you want for your daughter, you should also do.
In addition to setting a good example, feel free to talk to her about why you do the things you do.
If you go for a run each weekend, tell her how great it makes you feel, how it promotes health and how you love the chance to get outside. Encourage her to also find similar activities that make her feel good or have her join you in a fitness challenge.
For example, you could both sign up for a 5K race and prepare together. Apps like Couch to 5K ® presented by Special K provide a structured training schedule. As you both cross the finish line, you will have shown her that she has the inner strength take on new experiences and succeed.
By not only modeling healthy behavior but also engaging her in a dialogue about it, you are laying the foundation for her to develop healthy habits of her own.