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One of the primary lessons parents teach their children is how to make good choices. Often, these lessons come in the form of instructing them on what to do. Parents may find more success, however, when they collaborate with children instead, particularly when their children have autism. Here, autism treatment specialists Blue Minds share a few ways to learn together.
Read Food Labels Together
At the grocery store, take the opportunity to read food labels with your children. Talk about how different ingredients can affect your bodies. Fat, for example, can be good or bad, depending on what kind it is. A food label lists what type and how much fat is in a product. Find a product you'd both like to try that contains healthy fats.
You can also explain that the ingredients on a label are listed in order of quantity, with the highest amounts first. Food or drink with sugar at the beginning of the list contains more sugar than any other ingredient. Spend a day challenging each other to watch your sugar intake. If you choose to eat or drink a high-sugar product, manage your portions to make sure you don't overdo it.
Try New Produce
A fun way to encourage your children to eat healthily is to grow something new.
Children may be more eager to try a new food if they help grow it. Research fruits and vegetables that thrive in your growing zone, then let your kids choose from a few possibilities. Planting, caring for, and watching a new food as it grows gives you an investment in it, and the anticipation of waiting for produce to mature can add to the excitement.
Even if they've helped grow it, children can be reluctant at first to try something new. This is particularly true for children with autism. According to a study on Finnish and British twins, the reluctance to try different foods can be inherited. Start with small portions to avoid overwhelming them, and don't push too hard. It can take several exposures before kids are willing to taste foods they've never had.
Stay Active Together
It's a great idea to encourage your children to get 60 minutes of active time each day. Why not take it a step further and join them? Exercising with your children sets a positive example. Staying active together doesn't have to be complicated; short bursts of activity count, too. An impromptu dance party in the living room or 15 minutes of shooting hoops gets your blood pumping in a short time frame. If you have time for a more extended excursion, try a bike ride or find a hiking trail.
Make Plans for the Future
No matter how old your children are, it's always a good time to talk to them about their hopes and dreams for the future. With younger children, you may spend time listening to their plans for becoming a ballerina or astronaut. Teenagers may need help studying for college-prep tests or filling out scholarship applications.
You can model how to pursue their dreams by going after your own. If you are enthusiastic about business, take steps to earn a degree online to learn more about accounting, marketing, and business management. If you enjoy math and problem-solving, a computer science degree can be a good fit. The best part of earning a degree, though, may be the excellent example you set for your children, which will stay with them for years to come.
In addition, don’t underestimate the power of modeling self-care routines for your children. Practicing self-care helps kids of every age learn to be more mindful so they’ll be more in tune with their physical and emotional needs as they grow. Of course, any adult knows that nurturing ourselves is learned behavior, so it’s your job as parent to instill these skills in your children. Although it may seem impossible to fit in self-care routines as a busy mom or dad, find small ways to implement them throughout the day. For example, spend your lunch break enjoying your food and listening to a podcast rather than scarfing down your meal and mindlessly scrolling through social media. Similarly, you could carve out 30 minutes each evening to relax in a warm bath or read a book. When your kids see you taking time for yourself, they’ll learn the importance of doing the same for themselves.
Making good decisions is a skill your children will use for the rest of their lives. Working alongside them as you teach them makes a big impression on them — and may teach you something new along the way, too.
Blue Minds strives to provide support and resources to families with children who are affected by autism. To learn more about what we do or to access our services, please give us a call at 786.356.8161 or email email@example.com.