Passing on Healthy Habits to Your Kids! When it comes to our children, we strive hard to give them every benefit and opportunity, especially those we didn’t have growing up. We go through extreme lengths to make sure they are protected; we baby proof the house, immunize and take them for routine check ups with the doctor. We shell out hundreds and even thousands of dollars just to make sure their teeth are beautifully straight. No expense is spared and nothing is ever out of the question or too unreasonable when it comes to our children. And rightly so, as their parents, we love them. And, we ultimately just want what’s best for them. So why do we often ignore what they eat? Studies reported by the American Heart Association show that one in three kids and teenagers are overweight or obese. This number has more than tripled from studies done back in 1980. Childhood obesity causes a variety of premature health problems such as increased cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure along with numerous others. And these conditions, without lifestyle change and proper treatment tend to only worsen over time. Not to mention all the psychological effects being overweight can cause such as depression and low self-esteem. With this dramatic rise in weight in children and adolescents comes a daunting realization that for the first time researchers and doctors believe that this generation of adults might actually outlive their own children.
So what can we do about this? We may not be able to control the media’s messages geared towards kids like sugary candy and cereal commercials and advertisements, but there are ways that we, as parents and guardians, can do to help our children stay healthy.
Be a good example. It’s impossible to be perfect all time. But it is important to take some time to take a step back, and make sure your sending the right message. If you are the one constantly laying on the couch and sipping soda while telling the kids to go play outside and drink more water, it’s going to be a lot harder to get your point across. You may not think they are listening to you, but they are. And they are always watching and observing everything you do. Make sure you’re being a good role model for them. Changing your efforts will have a huge impact on how they act as well.
Help the family stay active. Leading a busy life doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re living an active lifestyle. Attempting to take some time out of each day to do something active is extremely important. So, maybe hold off on the movie night and go for a bike right as a family instead, or take a walk around the park. Everyone will reap the benefits of a little exercise.
Set realistic goals. Don’t set up a plan or a goal that you know you won’t be able to maintain. For example: Promising the kids that you will go on a family outing every night when you’re extremely busy at work and have been late getting home the last three nights, is probably not the best plan. Continually making promises you can’t keep is not fair for them or you. However, as long as you are taking small steps to make somewhat of a change, you are making a difference. It takes time.
Minimize TV use, computer time, and video games. We live in a world full of technology. Times have changed. There were once days when all you had to do for fun as a child was play outside. Now, we have instant entertainment provided 24/7, and all we have to do is sit. Television, computers, and even some video games can be a great educational tool for your child as well as serving great entertainment purposes. But, continually using these things generally leads to a more sedentary lifestyle and much less physical activity. Limiting the time spent on these devices to no more than 2 hours a day may prove very beneficial.
Encourage physical activity that they will enjoy. Every child is different. Letting your child experiment with different physical activities will help them figure out what they really enjoy doing. The more they like what they are doing, the more willing they are to really stick to it.
Stay positive. We all like encouragement. No one likes hearing about what they can’t do. Make it a point to focus on even the smallest of successes with your child. Positive reinforcement will help build their self-esteem and improve their self-image.
Reward wisely. There are many ways to reward a child for a job well done. However, things like candy, snacks, or more TV and video games shouldn’t be included. Remember, the ultimate goal is to always point to the healthier alternative. Rewarding them with these things will just undo everything else you’re trying to accomplish.
Make dinnertime a special family time. It’s sometimes hard with busy schedules and school activities to make time to spend together as a family. Dinnertime can be a great opportunity to relax and reconnect with each other. And when everyone sits down together for a planned meal, there typically is a lot less snacking throughout the afternoon. Getting kids involved in the dinner prep is also a great way to spend time together and to help children create and learn good cooking habits.
Teach nutrition, and make it fun. Eating healthy is not always easy, but it’s possible. Again, baby steps in the right direction will get you where you want to be. Learning about proper nutrition and passing that down to your kids is something that will stick with them and shape their eating habits forever. It’s good for them to know why eating vegetables are important and how to read a food label. These small lessons will shape their choices for years to come.
Be involved. Make sure your kids are eating healthy even when they are at school or away from home. Even follow up with their pediatrician or healthcare provider and make sure they are monitoring their blood pressure, cholesterol etc.
Be your child’s biggest advocate and their biggest cheerleader. They look up to you. You have the opportunity to mold them into the person they will one day become, and incorporating even just a few healthy choices can make all the difference.