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Childhood - General welfare


Read about the general welfare of bringing up your child including physical and emotional wellbeing.

Healthy kids

Living a healthy lifestyle means many things: having fun, eating well, being active, staying safe, getting enough sleep, taking care of our minds and bodies. Practical things are important too, like making sure your child visits the dentist regularly, their immunisations are kept up-to-date, they are receiving their daily vitamin drops and that they attend health and development checks.

Look out for, and be aware of, your child’s health in order to prevent illness and discuss any concerns with your health visitor. Developing a healthy attitude early on will help to ensure they become healthy throughout life.

Being physically active every day is important for healthy growth and development and impacts on their social skills. Babies should be encouraged to be active from birth. Before your baby begins to crawl, encourage them to be physically active by reaching and grasping, pulling and pushing during supervised floor play, including tummy time (when you place your baby on their stomach while awake and you are watching).

Minimise the amount of time children spend sitting watching TV, in a buggy, playing computer games and travelling by car, bus or train. Try to make exercise fun and part of everyday life for all the family

  1. How much exercise should my child have daily?
  2. Children who can walk on their own should be active every day for at least three hours. This should be spread throughout the day, indoors and outside.
  3. Safe, active play, such as using a climbing frame, riding a bike, playing in water, chasing games and ball games should be supervised.

Screen time

The first two years of life are a critical time for brain development. TV and other electronic media can get in the way of exploring, playing, thinking and interacting, which all encourage learning and healthy physical and social development.

Children who consistently spend more than four hours a day watching TV are more likely to be overweight (less time for play).

TV and electronic media can limit communication and speech skills, resulting in the child preferring to listen rather than take part in a real-life conversation. TV can affect sleep patterns too.

Promoting good health and a healthy weight

With healthy habits from birth, you can give your baby a good start for a healthy and happy future. Breast milk is ideal for your baby’s growing needs. It is easy to develop healthy eating habits at an early stage in their lives. Babies like the foods they get used to.

If you give them lots of different, healthy foods to try when they are babies and toddlers, they are more likely to eat a variety of healthy foods as they grow up. Avoid salt, sugar, honey, nuts, saturated fats, low-fat foods, raw shellfish or eggs for babies.

The Department of Health recommends that all children from six months to five years old are given supplements, in the form of vitamin drops which contain vitamins A, C and D. Please speak to your health visitor or pharmacist who will be able to give you further advice.

Physical exercise helps with all aspects of physical and mental wellbeing and it helps avoid becoming overweight or obese. Try to have family outings that include walking and cycling so you can all get fitter together.

Health visitor tips

You can give your child whole (full-fat) cow’s milk as a drink from one year old (and on breakfast cereal from six months old). Do not give children under two years old semi-skimmed, 1% fat or skimmed milk, these don’t contain enough calories or essential vitamins for children of this age.

From two to five years old, children can drink whole or semi-skimmed milk. If your child doesn’t like milk, it’s important to try to include other dairy foods in their diet such as yoghurt or cheese, but don’t give them lower-fat versions

Your local services

Health Exercise Nutrition for the Really Young (HENRY) (internal link)

Find your local Children's Centres (internal link)

Link4Life (external link)

Find local activities for children (internal link)


Many parents are unaware of the serious health implications of children being overweight (or obese), with a greater risk of long-term health problems, including cardiovascular problems, type 2 diabetes, raised blood pressure, cholesterol, early puberty, asthma and other respiratory problems.

Overweight babies and toddlers are more than five times as likely to be overweight as children and adults. Good eating and exercise habits need to be developed early in life. Talk to your health visitor about healthy meal ideas for all the family.

Being overweight is rarely to do with a medical problem, and is simply due to an unhealthy diet and not enough exercise. It is better to prevent your child becoming overweight in the first place. Good sleep patterns, a healthy varied diet and regular exercise will all help keep your child to a healthy weight.

The emotional consequences of obesity in childhood can be severe and longlasting, including bullying and low self-esteem. Parents can find it difficult to talk to their child about being overweight as they feel guilty and they do not want to upset them by talking about it. Parents often underestimate the amount of food children eat and overestimate the amount of activity they do. Many parents believe their children are already active enough, confusing being boisterous with being active.

  • My mum confuses giving her grandson chocolate with being kind to him. She only wants him to be happy, but I am worried.
  • It can be difficult, but try to explain to her why you would prefer him to have healthy snacks and that in the long run, it is best for him.
  • Give her some healthy meal ideas and maybe send him along with some fruit or vegetable slices to snack on.

Dietician tips

Salt and sugar is added to nearly all processed products. Three-quarters of the salt and sugar we eat is already in the food, the rest is what we add to cooking or shake on our meals. Children need less than 5g of salt a day (2g sodium).

What you can do

Many parents are unaware of the dangers of childhood obesity, but by following the top tips below you can make a difference to your child’s health.

  1. Sugar swaps - swapping sugary snacks and drinks for ones that are lower in sugar can make a huge difference.
  2. Meal time - it’s important for kids to have regular, proper meals as growing bodies respond better to routine.
  3. Snack check - many snacks are full of the things that are bad for us - sugar, salt, fat and calories. So try and keep a careful eye on how many the kids are having.
  4. Me size meals - it’s important to make sure kids get just the right amount for their age.
  5. 5 a day - five portions of fruit and/or vegetables a day.
  6. Cut back fat - too much fat is bad for us. It’s not always easy to tell where it’s lurking.
  7. Up and about - most of us spend too long sitting down. Keep active. Encourage your child to walk, you may need to use child safety reins.

Health visitor tips

It can be easy for busy parents (or family members) to prioritise their children’s immediate happiness over their long-term health by giving them the chocolate bar or sugary drink they are crying for.

Many parents allow children to decide what goes into the supermarket trolley in order to avoid rows. You are responsible for what your child eats. What your child eats now will set a pattern for life and overweight children are being set up for a lifetime of sickness and health problems.

Your local services

Health Exercise Nutrition for the Really Young (HENRY) (internal link)

Healthy eating services (internal link)

LivingWell Rochdale (internal link)

Healthy Start Vouchers (internal link)

Bonding and attachment

Bonding is the intense attachment that develops between parents and their baby. Bonding gets parents up in the middle of the night to feed their hungry baby and makes them attentive to the baby’s wide range of cries.

Healthy attachment, built by repetitive bonding experiences during infancy, provides the solid foundation for future healthy relationships. Bonding experiences include hugging, holding, rocking, singing, feeding, gazing, smiling and kissing.

Nonverbal cues and how they can be used to create a secure attachment bond include:

  • Eye contact - look at your child affectionately and they will pick up on the positive emotion conveyed which makes them feel safe, relaxed and happy.
  • Facial expression - if your expression is calm and attentive when you communicate with your child, they will feel secure.
  • Tone of voice - even if your child is too young to understand the words you use, they can understand the difference between a tone which is harsh or preoccupied and a tone which conveys tenderness, concern and understanding. When talking to older children, make sure the tone you use matches what you’re saying.
  • Touch - the way you touch your child conveys your emotional state - whether you’re calm, tender, relaxed or disinterested, upset and unavailable. The way you wash, lift or carry your baby or the way you give your older child a warm hug, a gentle touch on the arm, or a reassuring pat on the back can convey so much emotion to your child.
  • Body language - sit with a relaxed, open posture, leaning towards your child and your child will feel what he or she is saying matters to you.
  • Pacing, timing, and intensity - the pacing, timing and intensity of your speech, movements and facial expressions can reflect your state of mind. If you maintain an adult pace, are stressed or otherwise inattentive, your nonverbal actions will do little to calm, soothe or reassure your child.

Speak to your midwife, health visitor or GP if you require further information or if you feel you are having problems bonding with your baby.

Your local services

Family Journey and Five to Thrive (internal link)

Find your local Children's Centre (internal link)

Incredible Years Baby course - 0-4 months (internal link)

Parent and toddler groups (internal link)

Baby sensory classes - Rochdale (internal link)

Postnatal depression

Postnatal depression is a type of depression some women experience after having a baby (which can affect one in 10 women). It can develop within the first six weeks of giving birth, but is often not apparent until around six months.

  1. Feeling irritable, unable to cope, difficulty sleeping and tearful.
  2. It has lasted longer than a few weeks.
  3. Then speak to your health visitor or GP immediately - do not leave it for the condition to deteriorate.

Symptoms include:

  • Feeling unable to cope.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Mood changes.
  • Irritability.
  • Episodes of tearfulness.

These are common after giving birth and are often known as the ‘baby blues’, which usually clear up within a few weeks. However, if your symptoms are more persistent, it could be postnatal depression. It’s very important to understand that postnatal depression is an illness. If you have it, it doesn’t mean you don’t love or care for your baby.

Postnatal depression can be lonely, distressing and frightening but, as long as it is recognised and treated, you can recover. It’s very important to seek treatment, so speak to your health visitor or GP. The condition is unlikely to get better by itself quickly and it could impact on the care of your baby.

Your local services

Find your local G.P. or health centre (internal link)

Find your nearest Health Visiting Team (internal link)

Find your Young Parents Service - for teenage parents (internal link)

Useful organisations

PADAS - Pre and Postnatal Depression Advice and Support (internal link)

Essential Parent (internal link)

National Childbirth Trust (internal link)

TAMBA - Twins and Multiple Births Association (internal link)

Child mental health

Mental health problems affect about one in 10 children and young people. They can include self-harm, eating disorders, depression, anxiety and conduct disorder and are often a direct response to what is happening in their lives.

The emotional wellbeing of children is just as important as their physical health. Good mental health allows children and young people to develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults.

  1. If children have a warm, open relationship with their parents, children will usually feel able to tell them if they are troubled.
  2. One of the most important ways parents can help is to listen to their children and take their feelings seriously.
  3. Your child may want a hug, they may want you to help them change something or they may want practical help.

Things to help maintain wellness include:

  • Being in good physical health, eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.
  • Having the time and freedom to play, indoors and outdoors.
  • Being part of a family that gets along well most of the time.
  • Going to a school that looks after the wellbeing of all its pupils.
  • Taking part in local activities for young people.
  • Feeling loved, trusted, understood, valued and safe.
  • Being able to learn and having opportunities to succeed.
  • Accepting who they are and recognising what they are good at.
  • Feeling they have some control over their own life.
  • Having the strength to cope when something is wrong (resilience) and the ability to solve problems.

When to seek professional help

Children and young people’s negative feelings usually pass but if your child is distressed for a long time; if their negative feelings are stopping them from getting on with their lives; their distress is disrupting family life; or they are repeatedly behaving in ways you would not expect at their age, it is important to seek professional help.

Your local services

Healthy Young Minds (internal link)

#THRIVE - Emotional Health and Wellbeing Support (internal link)

Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale Early Intervention Service (internal link)

Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale School Nursing Service (internal link)

Open Young Minds Prioject (internal link)

Young Minds - Young People's Mental Health and Wellbeing (internal link)

ChatHealth for Young People (internal link)

Useful organisations

MindEd for families (internal link)

Nurture-Psychology Service Ltd (internal link)

Nestlings Care Ltd (internal link)

No Panic (internal link)

Domestic violence

Domestic abuse affects many families. Women are at increased risk of domestic abuse during pregnancy and the first year after giving birth, even if there has not been any abuse before. Men can also be victims.

Remember, you are not responsible; it is not acceptable and you are not alone. Violence rarely happens only once and will become more and more serious as time goes on. It’s not easy to accept that a loved one can act in this way and you may be trying to make the relationship work. Abuse can take many forms: physical, including sexual violence; mental and verbal cruelty; financial control and/or controlling behaviour.

Children can often get caught up in the crossfire and become victims, placing them at risk of significant harm. They may feel frightened, become withdrawn, aggressive or difficult, bed wet, lack concentration and suffer emotional upset. They will need time to discuss the feelings they have about violence or abuse.

Children need to know it is not their fault and this is not the way relationships should be. It is best that action is taken early to stop things becoming worse, so seek professional support. Keeping your child safe is your responsibility.

Long-term abuse is much more likely to cause problems for a child as they grow older. The longer children are exposed to violence, the more severe the effects. These can include a lack of respect for the non-violent parent, loss of self-confidence (which will affect their ability to form relationships in the future), being over-protective of a parent, loss of childhood, problems at school and running away.

Your local services

Domestic Violence and Abuse - Where to find help (internal link)

Good oral health

Although it’s not always easy, you should get your child into good habits at an early age. They will need your help until they are seven. Make sure your child brushes their teeth twice a day with a family fluoride toothpaste that has levels of 1450 parts per million (ppm) fluoride.

When your child turns three, use a pea sized amount of toothpaste, prior to that use just a smear. Children (particularly young children) should spit not rinse after brushing with a fluoride toothpaste for maximum effectiveness.

  1. Golden rule - never give a sugary drink last thing at night.
  2. It’s never too early to start taking your child to the dentist.
  3. Tooth decay is almost totally preventable. Get it right from the start. Know what causes teeth to go bad.

Get your child used to visiting the dentist and take them to an appointment with you to reassure them. Talk to your health visitor and take your child to a dentist as soon as you can. Ask your dentist to brush on flouride varnish for added protection against tooth decay (for children aged three and above) - it's free.

Fizzy drinks

Fizzy drinks can contain large amounts of sugar, which will increase the risk of tooth decay. All fizzy drinks (both those containing sugar and sugar-free or diet versions) contain acids that can erode the outer surface of the tooth. If you do have sugary or fizzy drinks, drinking them with meals can help reduce the damage to teeth. The best drinks to give children are water, milk and milkshakes without added sugar.

If you or your children like fizzy drinks, try diluting fruit juice with sparkling water instead. Remember to dilute squashes well to reduce the sugar content in the drink. Diet versions of fizzy drinks also contain very few nutrients. Milk or water are much healthier choices, especially for children.

Good habits

Use a family fluoride toothpaste right from the start. Remember that good tooth care will come from you, mums and dads, brothers and sisters. Take opportunities to let them watch you brushing your teeth. Explain what you are doing and why you are doing it. Try to make it fun.

Dentist tips

As soon as teeth appear in the mouth, parents should brush their baby’s teeth in the morning and last thing before bed.

Provide a healthy, balanced diet and limit sugary food and drinks to mealtimes only. Sugar or honey should not be added to weaning foods. Introduce drinking from a cup from six months and stop bottle feeding by one year.

If children are brought up to care for their teeth early on, it should stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives. Do not give your toddler juice in a bottle or sippy cup. They may use this as a comforter and expose teeth to fruit sugar all day long.

Your local services

Children's teeth (internal link)

Fluoride Varnish Programme (internal link)

Find your nearest dentist (internal link)

Smokefree homes

Second-hand smoke is made up of two types of smoke: mainstream (breathed in and out by smokers) and sidestream (smoke from the burning tip of a cigarette). Second-hand smoke is dangerous for children as they are growing up because:

  • Smoking near children is a cause of serious respiratory illnesses, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke increases the risk of children developing asthma and can cause asthma attacks.
  • Younger children who are exposed to second-hand smoke are much more likely to contract a serious respiratory infection that requires hospitalisation.
  • There is an increased risk of meningitis for children who are exposed to secondhand smoke.
  • Children exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to get coughs and colds, as well as middle ear disease (which can cause deafness).

Step right out of your home to ensure it does not affect your children. Also, have a smokefree car at all times as exposure to the chemicals in second-hand smoke is increased in a confined space, even with the windows open.

  1. Smoking anywhere near your children, like in the car, affects their health as well as yours.
  2. Opening a window or standing by the door is not enough to protect children from the effects of smoking.
  3. Step right out and take seven steps from your home to ensure you are protecting your children.

Make your home smokefree

  • Tell everyone in your house, and any visitors, that your home is now smokefree.
  • Keep a pair of slip-on shoes and other all-weather items by your back door, so you can go out anytime.
  • Keep an ashtray outside, away from your back door as a reminder. It’ll help keep the garden tidy too.
  • Can’t make it outside? Nicotine replacement methods like patches and gum can help.
  • If you smoke, or are exposed to second-hand smoke during pregnancy, it means your baby shares chemicals from the smoke you breathe.

Your local services

LivingWell Rochdale (internal link)

Stop smoking clinics (internal link)

10 self-help tips to stop smoking (internal link)

10 health benefits of stopping smoking (internal link)

Useful contacts

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