parent opinion

'Teaching them what calm feels like.' 14 parents on the ways they're teaching their kids healthy habits.

Queensland Government
Thanks to our brand partner, Queensland Government

So, what did your parents teach you about healthy habits and wellbeing when you were a kid? 

Were you forced to eat everything on your plate? Yes, including that limp, cold, soggy broccoli? Do photos from your family beach holidays show you were practically naked compared to our kids today in their sun-resistant scuba suits? 

And what about emotional wellbeing? Parents ever tell you to “make space” for your feelings? Or did they give you a hug/back slap accompanied by a “you’ll be right mate. Suck it up. Lucky you're tough” etc, etc.  

While we turned out fine(ish), the simplicity of this time cannot be repeated. Why? Because parents today are surrounded by all the parenting information. 

Which is great. So great. Lucky us... it's just that there’s so much of it. And a lot of it is contradictory. And we’re tired. So tired. 

And all we really want to know is – how can we raise healthy, happy and confident humans? How can we instil in them the healthy habits they need to live their very best lives? 

To find our answer, we’ve stepped away from the rabbit hole that is Google and gone directly to the experts themselves.   

Other parents. 

Because we all know, if anyone has a hope of knowing what works and what doesn’t, it’s those of us in the thick of it right now.  

Are we allowed to use technology with our kids to create healthy habits yet?  

Ok, I’ll go first and share my two cents worth on this one. 


Obviously, like everything – moderation is key. But it needs to be said that #notalltechnology is bad technology. And I, for one, am leaning into the good stuff. Shame free. 

Lately, my kids and I have been deep diving into a new app called Podsquad. It’s free, produced by a bunch of smarty pants (actual childhood health experts) from Health and Wellbeing Queensland, The University of Queensland and the health sector. 

You can set up a family profile by entering all your names in. Then, parents do a quick quiz for each kid about where they’re at with their healthy habits and what they want to work on. 

The app uses behavioural science to explore the topics of nutrition, physical activity, and wellbeing to get you and your kids to be healthy habit pros. 

Our kids are 7 and 8, and the app has made this abstract concept of “health and wellbeing” more concrete in their little brains. 

Image: Supplied. 


They each get a bit of time to check in with the app, do quizzes, set goals, track progress and play games. The quests are particularly fun, encouraging them to take what they've learnt in the app and apply it in the real world. 

For parents there’s a podcast with advice that relates to your specific goals. 

It’s excellent. Highly recommend. 

Other "embrace technology" suggestions from parents included: 

“Those fitness tracker watches are excellent. I can see how much sleep my son is getting and how many steps he has done. It’s made us talk about healthy habits like getting good sleep and moving our bodies.” – Kathy

“We love video games that are movement based in our family. My husband and I compete against the kids. It really is a workout. I’m always a bit sore the next day to be honest.” – Caitlin


Kids who love nutritious food and moving their bodies. How do you make that happen parents?  

“We have less nutritious options in our house all the time, but it’s not always what they choose. They can only learn healthy habits if they have the option not to choose them. Fresh fruit is always on the kitchen bench so the kids can easily see it, grab it and go.” – Kimberly

“We exercise together with an emphasis on fun… beaches, mountain bikes, netball, rock climbing/bouldering and lucky for me they enjoy them all.” – Kate

Image: Supplied. 


“As an aunty and teacher of many sport mad kids, try and focus more on the participation in sport and other activities rather than the outcome. I see too much emphasis on the results… I ask my nephews and students ‘did you have fun at footy on the weekend?’ Or ‘were you happy with how you played?’ Rather than ‘how was footy?’ Because often they will reply with the result, ‘we won/lost, we flogged them/we got flogged’ … if they respond like this to my questions, I say, that’s not what I asked!” – Zita, Teacher

“We try to eat whole foods at home, but when we’re out and about I let them have free choice. They have figured out what and how much makes their tummies and bodies feel good.” – Michelle

“Movement is so important. Try a variety of indoor and outdoor activities. And when they find one they love – encourage it.” – Helen

“Taste buds are ever-changing, as we adults all know, we may like something now that we didn’t as a child and vice versa. Dislike is not a concrete idea, and we have to keep trying in different forms – roasted, frozen, raw, with cheese.” – Karen

Image: Supplied. 


How do you empower your kids to navigate their emotions? 

Are we feeling our feelings or encouraging resilience? Can we do both? HOW???

“One of the best ways to teach kids how to deal with overwhelming emotions is to teach them what calm feels like. In my sessions with kids, we explore emotions like anger, sadness, excitement and worry. We use role play, stories or art to explore the emotion – what would our breath be like if we felt that? Where do I feel that in my body? Once they have explored the big emotions, then they can discover what calm feels like. The contrast is so important. What is my body doing now? What does a calm breath look like and feel like? Where do I feel calm in my body? Watching a group of kindy kids go from jumping around, dancing, or roaring like tigers to laying down, eyes closed, soft belly breathing – there is honestly no better feeling.” – Nikki, Life Coach


“Talk about what’s going on for them. Sometimes it’s a one-word answer when we really want to hear more, but pushing to hear more can sometimes push them further away. Sometimes they have no idea how to find the words. We’ve used the invisible sunglasses, turn around and talk, and take a deep breath and say it all in one big sentence. Things that take away feelings of judgement for them.” – Sarah, Teacher

“A dysregulated adult can’t help a child regulate their emotions. Work on at least acting calm and reducing your fight or flight response before you deal with an emotionally overwhelmed child.” – Kelly, Psychologist

“I try to give my son a sense of control whenever I can. Let him choose what to wear, get him to lead me at the shops, tell me whether to go left or right at the traffic lights. It's so easy to feel powerless when you're a kid, I think.” – Todd, Teacher

“That above all, they are loved on the good days and equally loved on the hard days.” – Emma, Teacher

Podsquad is a free wellbeing app, encouraging children and families to build healthier habits. Get it on Google Play or download on the App Store

Feature Image: Getty. 

Queensland Government
Podsquad uses behavioural science to explore the topics of nutrition, physical activity, and wellbeing to encourage children and families to make lasting changes that support a healthy lifestyle. Podsquad is an initiative of Health and Wellbeing Queensland – their mission is to help every Queenslander achieve and enjoy a healthy lifestyle. All content has been produced with the help of childhood health experts from Health and Wellbeing Queensland, The University of Queensland and the health sector.