Raising children today is significantly different than it was just 15 or 20 years ago. Between the stresses of school activities, the lure of technology, unhealthy food choices, and crammed schedules, there is a lot of pressure on kids. All of these stresses contribute to unhealthy children and potentially unhealthy adults. Therefore, now more than ever, kids need to learn how to better connect with their health and well-being.
As parents it is so easy to get caught up in the busy world of raising children. So here are simple suggestions to help your child become more aware of the importance of their health and wellness.
Be a great role model- In order for your kids to buy in to anything, they have to have a role model they respect. Obviously, parents are first in line for that. Therefore, it is imperative that you represent a solid model of good health. Paying attention to the foods you serve your kids, being an active as a family and promoting an active lifestyle. The foundation for good health starts at home.
Connect with Your Kids– Kids have so much stress in their life today, many are walking around overwhelmed and disconnected. On occasion, I will witness a family out to eat and every member is on their cell phone. When you’re with your family, BE with them. Eye to eye contact is vital for calm and comfort. Teach the importance of family time, down time, connecting. The more disconnected they are with you, the more likely they will disconnect from themselves.
Healthy Food– There is often the belief that eating healthy means spending a lot of money. Not true. Though some organic products may cost more, all food does not have to be organic to be healthy. Start by reducing fast-food runs, cutting out fried foods (chips are included) and limiting sweets. Ideally, you want to cook at home as often as you can and prioritize family meals. Getting them out the door with a good breakfast is vitally important. If you cut out junk food and opt for basic, whole food, you’ll likely find you’re actually saving money and teaching your kids the benefits of healthy eating.
Unintentional Activity- Study after study shows the importance of exercise, especially in our sedentary world. However, the idea of formal exercise can not only be a turn-off for adults, it can be for children too. Therefore, schedule family outings that focus on fun activity. Hikes, biking, parks with jungle gyms, kayaking, badminton, etc. Being active doesn’t have to be expensive, simply finding ways to get your family active while having fun will help them embrace an active lifestyle versus turning their nose up at it.
Giving Back– It seems that many kids today have more than what they need and take the culture of overindulgence for granted. Teaching your child the importance of giving back allows them to appreciate not only what they have, it also teaches selflessness. Many studies show that volunteering positively affects the mind and the spirit.
Body Education – One of the best ways you can inspire your child to take care of his or her body is to educate them on how it works and why eating well and being active is so important for good health. A great with to do this is with educational models. Just as there are programs teaching kids to “Just say No!” to drugs, we need to teach them to say no to inactivity and unhealthy foods. The more they know, the better choices they can make.
In a hurry-up world, it’s tough to bring yourself, never mind a child to a place of calm and positive reflection. But the truth is that there is no better gift to give than that of health and wellness. Helping a child understand the worth of caring for the mind, body and spirit will likely set the stage for a happy, fulfilled life. Very often it’s exactly what parents want for their children.
Nicki is the health and fitness columnist for Chicago Suburban Newspapers, Tribune Company/Naperville Magazine and contributor to numerous magazines and websites including, MSNBC.com, Forbes.com and FitnessMagazine.com, Real Simple, Prevention, Women’s Health and Women’s’ Running, Men’s Health and Fitness.