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Physical and mental health for young children
Physical and mental health for young children

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2.2 The importance of an understanding and non-judgemental approach

The family environment creates what becomes the norm for children. The norm for many families may not be what professionals advocate, and may not comply with current research findings, government policy, the policies in your setting or with your own beliefs. There are many reasons why parents do not create ‘health-promoting’ lifestyles for their children. Such reasons may be influenced by living in poverty; although, poverty is not simply a lack of money. Food poverty, meaning a lack of nutritious food and a well-balanced diet, can be a feature of families who have sufficient money to provide a healthy diet, but may not have much spare time to give to buying and preparing nutritious meals.

A photograph of a child sat with a pizza.
Figure 2 many parents are unable to provide the resources for healthy meals

However, many children do have an unhealthy diet, and many go hungry because of lack of money. In addition, there are social, cultural, religious and other economic influences that can affect how parents promote or inhibit the health of their children. Many parents will hold very strong health beliefs, therefore your role in working with parents to gain their cooperation and trust may be challenging. You may find that you need to be especially sensitive and non-judgemental in your approach to parents.

The following section explores how Karen and colleagues used the information they had gathered about the health priorities in their setting, and how they identified a focus, or intervention, aimed at improving the health of the children.