How many times did your parents tell you to sit up straight when you were a kid?
If the answer is, “a lot,” then know it wasn’t without good reason.
Sure, having good posture makes you look a lot more confident and in general gives you a statelier air. But the benefits of good posture extend just beyond appearance – especially for children.
Now that you’re a parent, you are probably just as concerned about your child’s posture as your parents were with yours when you were a kid.
It’s not always easy to get kids to actively pay attention to their posture. But there a few ways that can help build the healthy habit of standing up straight in kids.
Causes of Bad Posture in Children
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Bad posture has been a common phenomenon in adults for some time. But now, it’s affecting children more and more – in part due to technology.
Kids not only spend more time on their phones, the computer and in front of the TV, but they also have to use technology much more in school.
As a kid, you probably slouched over when reading a book or working on homework. Well, it still happens to kids today but they also spend more time sitting in front of a computer for school.
You probably work most days and know what a big effect working at a computer can have on your posture. We’ve all come home from work with sore upper backs after a long day typing at a desk. Unfortunately, the same happens to children more often than you’d like to think.
Similarly, poor classroom seating and carrying around backpacks full of heavy textbooks also have a long-term negative effect on the posture of children.
Additionally, weak abdominal and back muscles can lead to poor posture. If your child lives a very sedentary lifestyle it is more likely that he or she will have bad posture. That’s one reason why exercise is so important for children.
Children as young as seven are suffering from back pain due to poor posture, and a recent study of 10-year-olds showed that 10% of them have already triggered lifelong back issues.
But unfortunately, there are even more negative effects of bad posture in kids than back pain.
The Health Risks of Poor Posture
Just like in adults, neck and back strain are potential consequences of poor posture in children.
Unfortunately, many people don’t always consider the other risks of having bad posture. Because the back or neck pain is the most tangible and immediate side effect of slouching, it’s the one we all tend to pay the most attention to.
But there are greater risks to slouching, and if children slouch, then they are more or less guaranteeing that they will experience long-term negative effects.
Children who don’t exercise good posture can experience issues with bone and muscle development. For example, he or she could have abnormal bone growth or develop carpel tunnel syndrome, both of which are hard to correct.
There also have been reported cases of children of the age of ten who already have issues with at least one of the discs in their backs. As we age, it’s natural for the discs in our spine to become increasingly rigid or develop cracks, but these degenerative phenomena shouldn’t happen in young children.
It is therefore very important to start exercising preventative back care even before puberty, especially considering how children today spend more time hunched over a computer or lugging around a backpack full of heavy books.
And anybody (adults and children alike) can potentially put long-term strain or damage on the internal organs if they don’t stand up straight. Hunching over can reduce lung capacity up to 30% and, consequently, your tissues as well as the brain and heart don’t receive as much oxygenated blood.
Slouching over also puts strain on your digestive system. In fact, a lot of digestive issues people have can be traced back to poor posture, though we don’t usually consider that as a possible factor.
Food and liquids are pushed through your body by peristalsis, and if your child is a habitual sloucher, peristaltic function can be greatly impeded. In short, the gastrointestinal system won’t function as effectively.
So, if your child has chronic stomachaches, maybe it’s time to put away the Pepto Bismol and teach some good posture habits, instead.
5 Great Ways to Teach Your Child to Stand a Little Straighter
Admittedly, it can be difficult to improve your child’s posture without seeming like you are just nagging – but it is possible to train them in positive ways.
If you only scold or remind your kiddo to sit up straight, the chances are higher that he or she will just roll his or her eyes and ignore you.
But if you are encouraging and build ways to improve posture into their everyday activities, then you will have much more success. After all, the goal here is to build a lifelong, healthy habit!
So, here are some great methods of making good posture a natural part of your child’s life.
1. Introduce Activities that Encourage Healthy Posture
Your child perhaps already plays a sport or is active in some other way. It’s true that exercise, in general, helps with posture but there are some physical activities that will directly improve your child’s posture.
Yoga is one amazing physical activity for developing the muscles that support good posture, and there are some wonderful yoga classes and videos out there created specifically for children.
The core muscles are of particular importance when it comes to posture, and much of yoga is centered around the use and strengthening of those muscles. It will also improve your child’s flexibility and can help with attention span.
Plus, it’s a good way to get kids to step away from phones and computers, and therefore giving their backs a break from all that slouching.
Really any activity that focuses on developing core and back strength will help with your child’s posture. If yoga is a bit too “zen” for your child, try gymnastics or dance – two activities that require good posture in order to properly perform certain movements.
2. Lead by Example
It is well known that children – especially very young children – learn by observation.
And as parents, your child will learn the most watching you since you are who he or she inevitably spends the most time with.
So, parents, it’s time to work on your posture as well!
Not only will you improve your own health, but you will also be indirectly teaching your child how to sit and stand up straight. If your kiddo sees you exercising good posture, then he or she will imitate, thereby ingraining that good habit into his or her body and mind.
In short, good posture will automatically feel natural to your child because it will be how they learned to carry themselves.
3. Create a Working Environment That Encourages Good Posture
As we mentioned, one of the biggest reasons children today have poor posture is because of sitting hunched over at a desk at school and at home while they do homework.
But, it’s possible to create a workspace that will subtly force your child to sit up straight while he or she works.
First, you should make sure your child works at a table or desk that is about elbow-height. If your child does a lot of homework on a computer, then the monitor should be at about eye-level. If your family shares a computer, then it’s a good idea to get a desk with adjustable height to accommodate everyone’s posture.
You will also want to invest in a good chair for your child. Lumbar support isn’t just a necessity for adults with bad backs – it’s important for the posture of anyone who spends a lot of time sitting at a desk.
Finally, teach your child to sit all the way back in the chair (this naturally encourages sitting up straight), and discourage them from working in bed or on the couch, where it’s so easy for anyone to find themselves slumping down.
4. Limit Tech Time
When you limit the amount of time your child spends on a smartphone or playing video games, you also limit the risk of excessive slouching.
Also, kids today are much more sedentary than past generations in part due to the increased presence of technology in daily life.
When you encourage your child to spend time away from screens, you are not only improving his or her posture, but his or her overall physical and mental health as well.
If your child isn’t looking at a screen, he or she is much more likely to go outside, exercise, or do other activities that help develop a strong body.
5. Be Encouraging!
Like we said before, nagging isn’t going to hasten the process of improving your child’s posture. It’s better to be encouraging and praise them for exercising good posture.
Instead of saying, “Sit up straight!” try saying, “You look so grown up when you stand straight!”
When you compliment your child for having good posture, then he or she will be much more likely to continue the behavior.
Positivity certainly trumps negativity in this instance!
Straight Backs Make for Healthy Kids!
It seems so simple that it’s almost hard to believe that good posture can have such a big impact on your child’s health.
But little things can make a big difference, right?
When you instill a natural tendency to have good posture in your child, he or she will not only look proud and tall but will also have a strong and healthy body.