Are you a healthy parent? Part Two: Way of Life. Be a role model.
This is a timely topic -- maybe because First Lady Michelle Obama has made it so. How can we be more healthy as families? It must start with us -- the parents.
In our first post, we cited some interesting statistics/anecdotes about healthy living. In our second post we explored FOOD and provide strategies, tools, and recipes for eating better. The overriding theme to this series (and nearly every article that I have read) is that education and working together as a family are crucial.
If you want your child to eat better, exercise more, and take care of him/herself, show them how. Be a role model. Try. And be kind to yourself. Give it time. These changes will have life-long consequences.
Studies prove that change must start with the whole family
It is not what you say but what you do when it comes to kids. Kids don't miss a thing. But what works in one family may be very different for another family. Last week an article in Time Magazine, backs the "family" approach when trying to crack the "healthy parent" code. The article cites a study of 8,550 4-year-olds and found that eating dinner as a family (6 nights a week), limiting TV time (under 2 hours) and getting enough sleep (at least 10.5 hours) are routines that can protect against obesity. ** Our next two parts will cover sleep and exercise!
Practice may not make perfect, but it's a start. Aside from the strategies we relayed regarding food, there are myriad ways to attempt healthier living.
Ideas to start educating and modeling healthy behaviors
Read labels on foods and explain to your kids what you are doing. You are showing your child that you care about what is in things and you are educating them and yourself.
Get you kids involved in sports (and participate in some organized sports yourself!). Girls especially can benefit from taking part in organized sports. A recent NYT article summarized the results of new studies that demonstrate the lifelong benefits to girls that participate in sports.
Censor media. This suggestion applies to tv, movies, magazines and toys. Yes, even toys. When you are still in control of the toy selection, take advantage of it. For example, we eschewed Barbie in favor of Go Go Sports Girls. What a better way to further encourage our daughter's emerging interest in swimming and soccer with dolls that also play these sports!
** And we will be giving away several of the Go Go Sports Dolls to those on our email newsletter list. BUT you must be on the list. Sign up here.
Visit farmers markets. Especially for younger kids, this is a great way to make fresh produce fun. While some markets are seasonal, there are many held year-round. Along with the fruits and veggies, many markets offer cooking demos, live music, and lots of samples! Local Harvest is an online resource that will help you find a market near you.
Cook together. Our daughter will definitely eat/try foods she has had a hand in preparing. There are plentiful resources for cooking with your kids. This one has kid-friendly recipes with nutrition data. Here's another one. Sadly, many of the sites had no nutrition information. How can anyone learn about healthy eating without this information?
Turn off the TV or set limits on TV. Entertainment is fine, but how much do you watch? The Time article we previously mentioned advocated a limit of 2 hours. This likely would include video games too. 1 to 2 hours seem reasonable.
Demonstrate manners and respect to others. Saying hello, being polite and showing respect to others helps children understand how to behave. When dealing with sales clerks, teachers, friends, family or anyone, realize that your children are watching. And recognize that children with good manners will be treated better by other adults...making life a little easier!
Be kind. Before you gossip ask yourself is it kind; is it necessary; is it true? While having good manners and being kind may not directly lead to "better health," it will ease your child's life producing less stress. And that is healthy!
Support your child's passions. We know one dad who built a skate ramp in his back yard for his skateboarding phenom son. This kid is now featured on Fuel TV's "Camp Woodward".
Read. Not only will reading expand your horizons, it will motivate your kids. I started a book club about 6 months ago and one mom told me that she had not read a book in over a decade. But now she's reading and her kids have noticed. Also, there are so many wonderful parenting books out there. I'd be lost without the help and advice that has come from books!
At the end of the day, parents are the center of their children's universe -- until they hit the teen years! Take advantage of this role and teach them (and yourself) how to live well now.