Our kids are the center of our worlds.  As parents, we are always thinking about their latest milestones, their challenges, their accomplishments, their growth and a thousand other variables that go into them growing into well-adjusted, happy adults.  Certainly at the top of most of our lists would be their health.  Any parent knows that if your child is experiencing health problems, whether it is physical, emotional, mental or social, he or she cannot reach their fullest potential.  Making the best choices for our children’s health is important to every parent and here is some advice on doing so:

Dental Health

Starting kids off right with proper dental care is a great way to ensure they will have healthy teeth and gums for a lifetime.  “I recommend that children see their dentist at age one,” says Dr. Dan Beninato of Premier Dental.  “Introduction to the dentist at this age can minimize or eliminate anxiety about going to the dentist.  Children and adults should visit their dentist every six months.  Families can make appointments for everyone on the same day to keep everyone current on their dental check-ups.  Regular dental visits are important in detecting dental concerns in the early stages when cavities are small and require minimal treatment. If exams are infrequent or absent from dental care, small cavities left untreated can lead to advance tooth decay, multiple cavities, and even discomfort or pain for your child. The number of cavities found in children between the ages of two and five has increased 15 percent over the last five years, according to the Center for Disease Control. Dental care should include daily brushing and flossing followed by a visit to the dentist every six months.”

Finding the right dentist for your child is important as it could affect their attitude and feelings about dental care for the rest of their lives.  “Recommendations from friends or family members is a good start,” Dr. Beninato says.  “Dental insurance companies will usually provide a list of dentists in your area.  I suggest calling or visiting the dental office to be sure it’s a good fit for your family.”

Dr. Beninato sums up by saying, “Parents should encourage their children to brush twice a day and floss once a day.  Establish a routine and make it fun!  Offering pleasantly flavored toothpaste, floss or a special toothbrush can help.  Also, limit sugary snacks or replace with veggies, milk and cheese.  Finally, remember to make an appointment with a dentist at age one, then keep up with exams every six months for the entire family.”

Health at School

If your children are in school, you probably already know that their educational environment has a large effect on them.  What kind of effect is it having on your child?  If you don’t like the way your child is treated at school, feel like he or she is not getting the attention or extra help needed, or is just not growing and thriving in their school as they should be, you might be wondering what to do.  As a parent, you always have the choice to move your child to another school.  Many parents decide to choose a private school for their child for a number of reasons.  These may include:

–Individualized attention.  Private schools usually have smaller class sizes than public schools and teachers are able to give more individualized attention to each student.

–Parental involvement.  Most private schools expect the parents to get involved in their children’s education.  The concept of a three way partnership is an important part of the way most private schools work.

–Spiritual education.  If religion is important to you and your family, you may want to choose a private school that is faith-based and offers this type of curriculum.

Fitness Health

Obesity is a huge epidemic in our country and one that is affecting more and more children.  Obesity in children has a number of negative consequences that include bullying, self-esteem issues, future health implications and more.  In our fast-paced, technology-based world, it’s no wonder that kids are opting more for the computers and television than the spirited outdoor play that used to keep older generations active and healthy when they were kids.  Parents also tend to be busier these days and by the time they are done with their packed day of work, community involvement and other commitments, they may find they don’t have the time or energy to be active with their children.  This is a problem.  Fortunately, there are solutions.

The best way to get kids to be more active is to get them involved in something that they enjoy that does NOT involve sitting on the couch or behind a computer screen.  There are still plenty of activities out there that involve active participation with other children and that get your kids the physical exercise they need to stay healthy.  Here are a few ideas:

Sports—Sports are still very much a part of many schools and getting your kids involved in one or more is a great way to encourage them to hang out with their friends in a beneficial environment.  It also helps to teach them teamwork, good sportsmanship and discipline.  Whether it’s basketball, football, volleyball, track or a more ‘non-traditional’ sport like golf or rugby, encouraging your kids to get on one of the school’s sports teams is a good way to improve their activity levels.

Lessons and classes—Maybe school sports are not for your child, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  However, just because they may have no interest in or talent for joining the basketball team, they may be a good fit for another activity outside of school.  These could include karate lessons, cheer or dance lessons or joining a Little League team.  Getting involved in these classes or teams still carry the same benefits as school sports and may even encourage your child to broaden his or her circle of friends.

Learn something together—Spending time with their children is very important to most parents and it can sometimes become difficult when the whole family is leading a life filled with activities.  You may be leery about adding another activity to your child’s list when you already feel like you don’t see him or her enough.  That’s why learning a new activity together could be the answer.  Though there are some things you cannot participate in with your children (no one’s probably going to want a 40-year-old dad to join the cheer squad, for example), there are plenty of ways to get involved.  Take golf lessons together, volunteer to be a soccer coach or start a home workout program together.

Our kids are the center of our universe and their health should always be on the top of our priority list.  A truly healthy child is one who is emotionally, physically and mentally fit and there are plenty of resources out there to help a parent improve the health of their son or daughter.