As a Eugene kids dentist, Dr. Kirchmeier understands that the holiday season can mean a lot of runny noses and sore throats for not only his younger patients, but also the entire family. With cold and flu season now in full swing, parents must stay vigilant against the wide variety of germs and viruses their kids start to bring home from school. Despite the popular perception, germs don’t spread more easily during the winter because the weather has turned cold. Well not exactly.
Individuals tend to get sick more often in the winter than summer because the cold weather outside keeps people huddled indoors in poorly ventilated spaces where germs can freely pass from one person to another. The exchange of germs is especially common in small children, whose idea of cleanliness might extend to licking something they pickup off the floor prior to putting it into their mouths.
However, just because children’s innate curiosity causes them to touch, grab, and grope everything that crosses their path doesn’t mean parents can’t teach their kids habits that can help protect them from germ exposure.
It’s hard to break a bad habit, so teaching your children healthy ones at an early age can have significant benefits for your family. Successfully dodging just one or two colds they would otherwise of picked up in school can save the entire family time and money otherwise spent on fighting off an illness.
These are children after, so parents need to set realistic expectations when trying to teach their kids healthy habits. Here are a few habits experts say that even preschool aged children can successful adopt.
When trying to teach your kids healthy habits, it’s important to focus on what really matters. Lecturing a young child on how germs work, or on the concept of contagions will probably just go over his or her head. So instead, parents should try to teach their children healthy routines they can understand.
Start off simple, and get your child into the routine of always covering her mouth whenever she sneezes or coughs. Instead of explaining to a young child that covering her mouth will prevent the spread of germs, just say it’s the polite thing to do for others, and then start practicing. If you ritualize certain good behaviors and make them systematic, you’ll have a much better chance of having your kids stick to them.
If you practice what to do by pretending to sneeze and cough with your child, he will eventually begin to practice the habit without thinking. Once he’s mastered covering his mouth, you can begin to teach him other habits such as never to eat things he drops on the floor or how to brush his teeth. Just remember that repetition and practice make all the difference when trying to teach a child a healthy routine.
When it comes to healthy habits you can teach your kids, washing their hands ranks at the very top of the list. However, for the importance of washing their hands to sink in, you need to incorporate it into their healthy routine.
Parents need to make hand washing an important routine for their children, just like with covering their mouths or brushing before bedtime. Make a point to always have your kids wash up:
- Whenever they arrive at daycare or school
- Prior to eating anything
- After they use the bathroom or get changed
- Immediately following a play date with friends
- As soon as they come home, regardless if they have just been at school or out in the yard playing
The key to teaching a young child anything is consistency. If you insist that your children wash their hands frequently, they should eventually start doing it automatically on their own. Keep in mind that children, even with the best intentions, still need supervision to ensure they wash, brush, or even flush correctly. Keep an eye on your kids when washing their hands to make sure they learn the correct technique.
Teach by Example
It’s amazing what kids pickup on by watching the behavior of adults. If you try teaching kids to always wash their hands and practice healthy habits, but fail to practice what you preach, kids will pick up on what you do instead of what you say.
By practicing the same healthy habits in front of your children that you’re attempting to teach them, not only do you lead by example, but your children are far more likely to start mimicking your behavior than if you just simply yell the same instructions over and over. This is even true when it comes to telling kids they need to brush and flossing nightly, which becomes a tougher sell if kids never see their parents pick up a toothbrush.
Make a point always to wash your hands whenever you come in from outside, home from work, or after picking up something dirty. Make a show of always coughing and sneezing with your mouth covered, and you might be surprised by how much your kids notice.
Eugene kids dentist Dr. Kirchmeier hopes that all of his patients stay healthy this holiday season, and that these tips can help your family stay germ free.