Teaching Health Literacy in Your HomeschoolApril 11, 2023
Medical education for kids isn’t just important if they’re planning to attend medical school in the future. A solid understanding of health practices is also essential for their day-to-day wellness. As such, it is important to include aspects of health literacy as part of your homeschooling curriculum.
This doesn’t necessarily have to involve a lot of technical and complex information. Rather, health literacy is aimed at ensuring everyone has the ability to make informed choices about their ongoing well-being. However, knowing what to cover and how to incorporate these into your lesson approach can certainly be challenging.
Let’s take a look at some key areas of focus when teaching your children about health literacy. What methods can we utilize to ensure our children gain a solid and actionable understanding of their wellness?
Combine Knowledge and Actions
As a homeschooling parent, you likely already know that simply lecturing your kids on any subject has limited efficacy. It is often more worthwhile to combine lessons involving information and data with an activity. This can help to reinforce the theory behind the action and ensure your kids maintain their understanding of it in the long term. The same approach can apply to teaching children about health literacy.
This can begin with mindfully building practical self-care habits into daily routines. Some of the most accessible forms of this that can directly impact health include maintaining regular hygiene and getting good quality sleep. You can also encourage effective hydration habits, positive interpersonal relationships, and healthy eating as key influencers of wellness.
With each of these habits, we should help our children to understand the tangible health benefits behind them. This isn’t just about avoiding illnesses. Talk about how regularly tending to these activities can help them to spot potential issues early so they can be addressed more effectively. By pairing the literacy lessons with the actions, you can reinforce your children’s understanding of the theory — not to mention that you’re empowering them to take an active role in advocating for their wellness.
Teach Preparation and Management
Health literacy doesn’t just involve recognizing issues and addressing symptoms. It’s also about understanding what resources are available to mitigate health concerns. This is one of the reasons why it is so vital to ensure our kids gain a robust health education. It helps to ensure that they have a good understanding of what tools are available and how to utilize them.
This can include ensuring they develop positive relationships with health providers from an early age. As they get older, we must ensure they go through the administrative aspects of their appointments with us. Talk to them about the range of services that are available for different health matters. Discuss how therapy can be a valuable part of managing their mental wellness and how to access this. Explain the differences in when to use emergency services as opposed to visiting urgent care clinics.
Another key part of teaching our kids health literacy in relation to preparation and management is the financial element. As parents, we know that accessing health resources in the U.S. can be costly. As such, it’s important to help our kids to understand solid methods to prioritize essential expenses in a household budget. Show them how medical insurance should form part of regular fixed expenses. Talk them through methods of saving a proportion of income for any unexpected medical costs. This not only helps to prevent them from experiencing medical debt but can also give them the confidence of knowing they can afford the care they need.
Develop Research and Advocacy Methods
An important part of health literacy is the ability to source and utilize information about improving and maintaining your well-being. Sometimes this may be in the form of researching symptoms in order to take action. On other occasions, it will be finding the most appropriate treatment or prevention methods. Unfortunately, this can be challenging to achieve effectively. As such, it’s important to teach your children how to seek accurate information and advocate for their needs.
While the internet can be a treasure trove of health data, there’s also a significant amount of misinformation and disinformation on the subject. Teach your children to recognize what a credible source of medical information looks like. Encourage them to assess whether the site medical information is posted on is run by a reliable government, medical, or academic institution.
Alongside the ability to gain solid information, we also need to teach them how to effectively act on it. Indeed, particularly if your children are female, they may find that they experience gender-biased treatment from doctors as they get older. It is important to ensure our children understand their rights as patients and how to advocate for their needs during appointments. This may involve running through role-playing scenarios so they know how to calmly but firmly interact with difficult physicians.
Navigate Difficult Health Conversations
On a more personal note, health conversations with children can sometimes bring up uncomfortable topics. As parents, we are tasked with traversing these conversations in the best way possible — without avoiding tough subjects or deflecting. Of course, there is a fine line between broaching a topic and saying too much. Here are some tips for navigating difficult conversations with your child about their health:
- Ask open-ended questions
- Actively listen
- Bond over shared or similar experiences
- Make sure they know they’re not alone
Scary health situations are amplified when your children haven’t experienced them before. This can include anything from “embarrassing” medical conditions to troubling mental health conditions that make them feel like they’re alone. If you can relate to them and make them feel less like they’re handling health issues by themselves, this can speak volumes.
Ask them what they think could help the most, and help them put their emotions into words. This will not only help you navigate teaching them about handling their health, but it will also help them describe what they’re feeling to any healthcare professionals in the future.
Health literacy should form a key part of our children’s ongoing education. Often, this is most effective when combining information with practical actions they can build into their routines. It’s also vital to pass on an understanding of the health resources available to them and how to engage with these. In a digital age that is so rife with misinformation, teaching how to recognize credible health information and advocate for care are invaluable aspects of a child’s learning. By building health literacy into our homeschooling curricula and embracing a compassionate approach, we can empower our children to take charge of their wellness.
More About the Author:
Sam Bowman is a writer who enjoys getting to utilize the internet for the community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time, he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.