Young boys part of the 4-H running outside

Giving Your Child a Happy, Healthy Start

Every mother and father wants to raise a happy, healthy, well-adjusted child. Service members are no exception. Since most healthy behaviors are developed in childhood, you can help your child get off to a good start with good habits, actions and choices to promote health and happiness. Here are some ways to help your kids get healthy and happy.

Start with nutrition

Health and happiness begins with good nutrition. Healthy foods provide the building blocks for a healthy body and can even help us fight disease. As a parent, help your child develop healthy eating habits as early as possible.

5210 Healthy Military Children is a program for military children and families.  For good nutrition, the program suggests:

  • Eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day
  • Avoiding all sweetened beverages and limit juice. Do not give juice to infants under 6 months.
  • Encouraging your child to eat and drink:

    • fat-free or low-fat dairy products
    • whole grains like whole-wheat bread and brown rice
    • lean protein, such as eggs, poultry, unsalted nuts and seeds.

Breakfast is especially important for children. Hungry kids tend to have shorter attention spans and can have difficulty with problem solving, math skills and memory recall.

Encourage physical activity

The 5210 program also suggests children should have:

  • 2 or fewer hours of recreational screen time a day
  • 1 or more hours of physical activity every day

Exercise for your young one can include school recess periods, hiking, playing sports, or walking to and from school. Being physically active and playing with your child is a wonderful opportunity to get exercise while being together. Here are more resources for activities for your child:

Promote good sleep habits

Sleep is critical to good health. According to the National Institute of Heath, sleep is involved in the healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels, and chronic sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of disease. For better sleep habits:

  • Have a consistent bedtime and wake-up time, even on the weekends
  • Plan an hour of quiet time before bed
  • Develop bedtime rituals
  • Make sure the bedroom is comfortable and is a positive environment.

If you have an infant or toddler, there are things you can do to help your young child develop healthy sleep habits. The program ZERO to THREE has lots of advice and tips for sleep.

Learn how to communicate

Talking to your children — even from infancy — is one of the most important parts of parenting. The way your child communicates will change substantially between birth and the age of five. Knowing what to expect can help you understand and respond to your child in meaningful ways. The Zero to Three program has lots of parenting tips on many subjects including communicating.

Staying in touch and communicating well remain vital as your children grow up. Check out our articles and resources in Parenting on Military OneSource for more ways to connect with your kids.

Take advantage of support

It truly “takes a village” to raise a healthy, happy child. As a service member, you have access to a host of tools and programs to help you along. Here on Military OneSource, you’ll find articles and resources with information and tips on raising children. You can also contact our Military OneSource specialty consultants for help with challenges like education, adoption and special needs. Call 800-342-9647. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.

Other Department of Defense resources

The New Parent Support Program provides supportive home visits to expectant parents and parents of young children. For more information, contact your local Military and Family Support Center or Family Advocacy Program. Find your local contact information for New Parent Support at MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.

4-H Military Partnerships bring the resources of the Land Grant Universities to the youth programs of the military. Military youth can join 4-H clubs in their community, and they can also participate in summer camps around the country.

Boys and Girls Clubs: Mission Youth Outreach links military families with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in communities around the country for kids who may not live near installation services.

The Pregnancy and New Parent Knowledge Management Program allows you to sign up to receive pregnancy, parenting and breastfeeding digital education on a regular basis.

Raising happy, healthy children demands dedication — but there’s no more rewarding job. Learn all you can and take advantage of the resources around you to get your military kid off to a great start.

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