As children, we tend to be influenced by the behaviors of those around us. Health behaviors are taught to us by our parents, relatives, babysitters, friends and others around us. This is why it is important to start talking to our children at an early age, the effects of the sun and ways to be sun safe. Children like to imitate those around them and as parents we can promote healthy behaviors through teaching and practicing them. Here are some suggestions:
- Applying sunscreen - Prior to going out to any activity, create a habit of applying sunscreen on all kids and adults. Humans just love rituals don’t we?! Turn it into a morning ritual like brushing your teeth. Explain to them what it does and why it is important, where to apply it and how much to use. It doesn’t have to be a long speech, short and simple is best. For example, “Sunscreen helps to protect us from getting sunburned.” “It protects us from the negative effects of the sun.”
- Getting Skin Exams - Bringing your child to get their skin examined by the dermatologist is a good way to promote healthy skin behaviors. This allows attention to the topic and early awareness of how important our skin is and the need for taking care of it. The dermatologist can also identify any potential risk factors for skin cancer and offer tips for optimizing skin health.
- Sun Protective Clothing - In addition to use of sunscreen, encourage your young ones to make use of baseball caps, hats, and sun protective clothes when outdoors.
- Talk to your children - Have an open dialogue with your children regarding sun safety. Talking to your kids, providing them with simple yet important information as well as practicing those behaviors are ways to kick start healthy behaviors which can stick for life.
- Practice Inspecting your Skin - Depending upon the age of your children, you can encourage older children to examine their own skin; during or drying off from the shower. Have them take note of any freckles or birthmarks they have. Reinforce this should be performed roughly once a month and in good bright lighting. Instruct them on what to look for in terms of spot sizes, shapes and colors, changes in any of these and also if they are new. If they should note anything suspicious or different, have them come to you right away.