How Do Parents' Lifestyles Affect Their Children?

Your lifestyle can have a lasting effect on your kids' health, safety and happiness.

Everything you do affects your children. From your views on sugary snacks to your way of slamming doors when your temper flares, everything you do teaches your children something. For the most part, you know that being a positive role model for your kids is imperative, but even if you don’t drink, smoke, do drugs or engage in any form of physical abuse, your lifestyle might still negatively affect your kids. On the same note, your healthy lifestyle choices have just as much effect on your kids. Carefully considering your lifestyle choices can make the difference between negatively and positively affecting your own children.

Your Marriage

Whether your kids witness screaming matches between you and your husband or see you coolly treating one another with forced politeness, they know what it means. According to developmental researchers at the University of California at Berkeley who randomly selected couples with school age children to participate in a marital intervention, the children whose parents worked to improve their marriage through this intervention did better in school than children of parents who did not. Your marriage is the first guideline your children have for relationships. Respectful disagreements and debates are healthy alternatives that help teach your kids that conflict is inevitable, but that it can be handled with dignity and grace.

Your Divorce

According to Dr. Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D. and author of the book, “Surviving (Your Child’s) Adolescence,” your decision to divorce affects your children. While it is not certain that your children will react this way, many children who are the product of divorced parents become more dependent and it makes adolescent kids become more independent at a faster rate. Young children are more likely to regress to wetting the bed, needing more parental care, and they suffer more separation anxiety. Adolescent kids are more likely to act out in school and at home, becoming more aggressive and defiant. This is not to say that parents should stay together if they are unhappy or in abusive relationships, as there are always situations in which the after effects of your divorce are less severe than if you remain married.

Your Health

Your kids aren’t going to learn to eat right simply by hearing you tell them to eat their vegetables or that they will not get dessert if they don’t finish their chicken. How you treat your health is how they learn to treat their own health. For example, according to Kaiser Permanente, when your kids see you eating right and taking care of your body with exercise, they learn that that is normal. The same is true if your kids see you sit on the couch munching potato chips and never exercising, they’re likely to do the same. You can help your kids live healthy lifestyles by leading one yourself. By ensuring that your family has at least five servings of fruit and vegetables every day, limiting sodas and juices and exercising regularly, you are having a positive effect on your kids’ health for the rest of their lives.

Your Stress

According to the American Psychological Association, how you manage stress from work, finances and family affects how your children learn to manage stress. If your lifestyle is one that causes a great deal of stress, such as being a doctor or a business owner, a single parent with a full-time job or your job requires you to travel a lot, your children will learn to handle it the same way that you handle it, whether your method of handling stress is healthy or not. For example, if your stress-management method includes coming home to several alcoholic beverages to unwind rather than dealing with stress in a healthy way, your kids are more likely to turn to substance abuse to deal with their own stress. If you handle your stress in a healthy manner, such as exercising, taking up yoga, joining a recreational sports team or taking those salsa dance lessons you’ve always wanted to take, your kids are more likely to turn to similar methods of stress relief.