Proactive behaviour starts at home. Having conversations about healthy habits isn’t enough!
Parenting is a tough learning curve – always trying your best to provide for your children and getting them everything they need and more. Well it doesn’t have to be so hard or expensive.
You hear this often that children are like sponges. Their capacity to learn and absorb information is incredible because they aren’t as selective yet. So this is the time to teach by example. Keeping children healthy and instilling good habits are a crucial part of future development. Healthy people start with well fed, rested and active kids.
With today’s high stress lifestyles, childhood obesity is on the rise and this is resulting in numerous health concerns. Conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart issues are notably seen in younger populations. Poor health conditions make one vulnerable to many coexisting conditions such as depression, low self esteem, and other psychological effects. This is a concern for us all as a community but also as parents.
Therefore, education is key. Proactive behaviour starts at home. Having conversations about healthy habits isn’t enough!
Five tips to keeping kids healthy:
Be A Role Model
Nagging children to be healthy will make them more resistant and actually encourage retaliating behaviour. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see.” If you make time for meals and exercise, your children will learn how to make time for it too. With high-strung lifestyles we often find ourselves complaining about not having enough time for exercise and take our meals to go, we pass on the same time management habits to them. Family time during meal time is the best of both worlds. Exercise can be disguised in many ways like, taking the stairs and parking further away, or going for walks at a nearby trail or park.
Boost Self-worth and Self Esteem
With Internet and social media making information so readily accessible, peer and self pressure is very apparent – resulting in anxious and conscious behaviour. Children are facing pressures from all aspects, performance, appearance and self acceptance. This can be extremely overwhelming for a developing mind. Therefore, they need your support more than the stress of meeting expectations. Harvesting a healthy lifestyle will boost their self esteem and promote a stronger mindset.
Diet and Healthy Snacks
It’s important to educate your children about the health benefits of eating well. Keeping a handful of healthy snacks at home and limiting junk food in the grocery cart will make a huge difference.
If you don’t have it you can’t reach for it. Children should be given the opportunity to make informed and educated decisions from an early age so that they develop good critical thinking strategies.
If you want them to eat something healthy, just telling them that is not enough; be sure to explain the advantages and repercussions of not eating well.
One of the biggest myths that you may have come across is that children burn a lot of energy so they can eat anything. Not true! A child’s body does or can burn more energy but still needs to be fuelled with nutritious food. They are just as prone to health conditions from poor eating patterns. We all know what picky eaters are like, so it’s not always an easy task but it just means we have to use some creative methods and a little bit of ‘tough love’. Balanced healthy diets don’t have to be boring, that’s why variety should be encouraged.
Good Sleeping Habits
Sleep is a tricky art that can take a long time to master. Sleep patterns change with time and can be dependant on so many factors. Diet, work schedule, hormones, and stress can determine the amount and quality of sleep. Giving children a head start can certainly set them up for success though. Poor sleep has been linked to numerous conditions like learning disabilities, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, depression, and much more.
Sleeping is like the recharge mode for the body and lack of it does not allow for optimal functioning. Too much stimulation can disturb healthy sleep cycles so limited TV or screen time before bed and even through the day can help. Taking away screen time from children has to mean taking it away for you too, otherwise it’s just a rule that will soon be broken.
Active Lifestyle vs Sport Specific Training
It’s not wrong to want your child to be a star athlete, but sometimes we are trying so hard that we don’t even realize we are vicariously living through them. Sports-specific training is not the only way to keep your kids healthy. It has been seen that children who start off with generalized sports and exercise routines have better coordination and endurance.
Younger children will benefit from being exposed to various forms of exercise. Learning different life skills include trying many different sports before doing any sport-specific training. Just like moderation is key, so is developing different skill and movement patterns to support good overall health and wellbeing. Dynamics exercise helps strengthen the whole body and the various muscle fibres to allow global conditioning.
Key points to remember
✓ Moderation is key so don’t deprive your child of anything and too much of a good thing can be bad for you.
✓ Give your children a head start to healthy living – tough love can be good for them.
✓ Show your children what healthy means rather than telling them.
✓ Keep healthy snacks handy and avoid stocking up on junk food – skip the junk food isle at the grocery store.
✓ Multifaceted sports training is better for young children than starting sports-specific training too soon – allow your children to explore different activities before singling out any one sport.
✓ Encourage healthy eating and exercise to help children understand that a healthy body goes a long way.
✓ Teach your kinds that self-worth comes from within, if you love yourself so will others; so you have some control over how others feel about you.
Sumen Singla-Goyal is a registered physical therapist and osteopathic manual therapist. She has been actively serving the Lower Mainland for over 10 years. She is very passionate about her work and wants to empower her patients and community with tools for healthy living.