Many parents are keenly interested in the basic academic education of their youngsters; reading writing and arithmetic but are not nearly as conscientious in finding out about the other learning that goes on in the classroom. A comprehensive health education is an important part of the curriculum in most schools. Starting in kindergarten and continuing through secondary schools, it provides an introduction to the human body and to factors that prevent illness and promote and damage health.

The middle years of childhood are extremely sensitive times for a number of health issues, especially when it comes to adopting health behavior that can have lifelong consequences. Your youngster may be exposed to a variety

The middle years of childhood are extremely sensitive times for a number of health themes in school; nutrition, disease prevention, physical growth and development, reproduction, first aid etc. The goal of this education is not only to increase your child’s health knowledge and to create positive attitudes towards his own well-being but also to promote healthy behavior. Children should be taught life skills and not merely academic skills.

It is easy for parents to underestimate the importance of this health education for your child. Before long he will be approaching puberty and adolescence and facing many choices about his behavior that if he chooses inappropriately, could impair his health and even lead to his death. Most experts concur that education about issues like alcohol abuse is most effective if it begins at least two years before the behav­ior is likely to start. This means that children seven and eight years old are not too young to learn about the dangers of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs, and that sexuality education also needs to be part of the experience of elementary-school-age children. At the same time, positive health behavior can also be learned during the middle years of childhood. Your child’s well-being as an adult can be influenced by the lifelong exercise and nutrition habits that he adopts now.

Health education programs are most effective if parents are involved. Par­ents can complement and reinforce what children are learning in school dur­ing conversations and activities at home. The schools can provide basic information about implementing healthy decisions, for instance, how and why to say no to alcohol use. But you should be a co-educator, particularly in those areas where family values are especially important, for example, sexu­ality, AIDS prevention, and tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use. Many parents feel ill-equipped to talk to their child about puberty, repro­duction, sex, and sexually transmitted diseases. But you need to recognize just how important your role is. With sexual topics as well as with many other ar­eas of health you can build on the general information taught at school and, in a dialogue with your youngster, put it into a moral context. Remember, you are the expert of your child, your family, and your family’s values.

In addition to school and home, your pediatrician is another health educator for you and your child. Since your child’s doctor knows your family, he or she can provide clear, personalized health information and advice. For in­stance, the pediatrician can talk with your child about the child’s personal growth patterns during puberty, relate them to the size and shape of other family members, and answer questions specific to your youngster’s own de­velopmental sequence and rate.


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