You don’t have to be an exceptional parent to understand how important it is to care for your child’s teeth. Regular visits to a licensed dentist and nightly teeth-brushing rituals are commonplace in most households. Yet in spite of the care from both parents and family dentists, more than 40% of all children end up with dental cavities by the time they reach kindergarten.
Obviously, there’s a lot more to growing up with healthy teeth than having a good licensed dentist (although that’s an integral part of it). What too many parents fail to recognize is that their children’s diet has as much to do with their level of health as their quality of care. And as any great licensed dentist can tell you, sugar is one of the biggest sources of dental health problems.
If your child has a voracious appetite for candy or a diet that’s generally high in sugar, you might want to address this before it becomes any more of a problem. To help your child get over their sugar addiction and get more enjoyment from less sugary foods, check out the following tips.
No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to develop new, healthier habits. That said, it’s far easier to carry good habits with you for life if you can’t remember a time when you haven’t had them. Children are most susceptible to influence in their first seven years, and any time after that, forming new habits is more difficult.
To give your child the best possible chance at a healthy life, start them off right by avoiding sugar as much as possible. A baby shouldn’t consume sugar at all in their first year, but even as they get older, it’s entirely possible to give them a full, memorable childhood without sugary treats. Alternative sweeteners, like honey and stevia, can replace sugar in many desserts. And for snacks, try carrots, apples, and healthy crackers. You don’t need to avoid sugar all the time, but the less dependent on it your child feels, the better for them in the long run.
If your child is well into their preteens, or even a teenager already, that doesn’t mean it’s too late to help them shift away from eating sugar. But for an older child, their attention is less likely to be on their health or their teeth, and more likely to be centered around how they look.
However, this isn’t a good mindset for a child to have. And while it’s natural to care about your appearance, you shouldn’t help encourage your child’s concern over their weight.
Instead, when you talk to your child about eating less sugar and making healthier lifestyle choices, make it about being healthy and feeling good, rather than about staying slim or losing weight. Weight loss will come naturally with a healthy diet, and some say that weight loss is more likely to occur if it isn’t a major source of anxiety for you. Encourage your child to have a healthy love for their body, and make going sugar-free a quest for a better quality of life rather than an enhanced appearance.
A licensed dentist or nurse can help you teach your child about the importance of dietary and dental health, since they would be perceived by your child to be an authority.
If you want your child to rebel against your wishes, all you have to do is take away their ability to choose. But if you want them to participate cooperatively, you must make them feel that you respect their opinions and desires.
To that end, the best thing you can do for your child is not to control their entire life, but to teach them how to live best, and why it works that way. This is especially important for older children, who often struggle with freedom and self-esteem issues as it is.
Going along with the last tip, it’s far better to teach your children to listen to their bodies than to make them only listen to you. After all, you won’t always be around to tell them how to eat. So instead of enforcing a strict diet and leaving it at that, help them understand how their body works in relation to the foods they eat. Let them see how their mood and energy changes depending on their diet. Show them the research and evidence around things like sugar and processed foods. When they’re out in the world making their own decisions, you will be proud and impressed with the results.
Many parents want to raise healthy, intelligent children who make a positive difference in the world. But too often, they fall back on unhealthy and harmful habits themselves, even as they try and make their kids make positive choices.
The problem with this is that children always idolize their parents, no matter who they are. Your child naturally assumes that whatever you do must be best, so telling them to do the opposite can create cognitive dissonance and confusion in their mind.
The simple solution: don’t just take your kids to a licensed dentist and tell them what to do. Do it in front of them.
You could have your children going sugar-free in no time.