We feel it every day. Life seems to keep getting busier and busier. Between juggling careers, kid’s school activities and homework, and household obligations, many of us choose convenience in other areas to save time.
Those areas sometimes include things like where we get our meals from and the amount of family fun we have together. It’s natural to not feel like cooking dinner, to order out, to grab something quick to eat on the way home from an event. And, as with everything, there’s no harm to doing these things in moderation.
But something we may not often think about is how our lifestyles impact our children. No matter how time-crunched and hectic our lives are, it’s crucial that we remember to take time to instill the right habits in our kids. The areas of nutrition, exercise, and body image are among the healthy habits that are most important.
While obesity and Type II diabetes (see the infographic below for some shocking statistics) are major threats for kids, there are even more subtle health-related elements that could pose major problems. Among these are unhealthy relationships with food and poor body image implications.
We all know that the adolescent years are difficult ones when it comes to ensuring positive self-image and body image – especially in 2016 with constant media exposure. According to a recent Harris Poll for Girls Empowerment Network survey targeting 1,133 boys and girls ages 8-18, 35% of girls and 15% of boys said issues with their body image is a threat to positive self-image they currently face. And 32% of girls (6% of boys) responded that unrealistic images of women and men in the media were threats to self-image.
As a parent, you know best how to educate, inform, and teach your child or children. Based on conversations over the years with parents who lead healthy lifestyles, we’ve also put together three suggestions to help get the ball rolling with healthy habits. We hope you find these useful – and please leave a comment if you have any additional thoughts or suggestions.
Live by Example (And, Better Late Than Never)
It’s no secret that kids copy what they see their parents do – the good and the bad. We’ve probably all thought at one point, “Where did [fill in your kid’s name] learn THAT word?”
First, evaluate your lifestyle. Is it healthy, active, and balanced? Do you exercise, have a good relationship with food, and say positive things about yourself?
Sometimes it can be something as subtle as picking apart your weight and appearance that can rub off on your little ones. And if you stock the fridge and pantry with nutritious food and get rid of (or limit) junk food, that’s a big step in the right direction.
Don’t forget to make some time each week for your own workouts, whether that’s a jog around the neighborhood, setting up free weights in a spare bedroom, or putting the kids in daycare at the gym while you take a class.
If your children see you living healthy, there’s a good chance they will mimic your approach. And it’s never too late to start – see our previous posts on an easy bodyweight workout and overcoming gymtimidation to help you get launch your workout plan.
Work Off of What’s Natural
As adults, we tend to focus on numbers. What the scale reads, our pants size, etc. Number-crunching, combined with comparisons to unattainable celebrity bodies we see on the internet every day, can be a recipe for expressing bad feelings about our appearances. Kids can pick up on these vibes.
In addition, children’s bodies grow and change at crazy rates, and this sometimes results in weight fluctuations. This is natural, and it’s important to remind our kids of this fact and keep up the positivity.
Instead of telling your kids about being active and eating healthy to lose weight purely so they look “better,” try promoting feelings of accomplishment by setting and achieving goals. Even just having fun and planning adventures while playing in the backyard can be helpful.
The goal with this approach is to connect the healthy behavior with positive feelings about themselves. Eventually, healthy behavior will become what’s natural.
Make it a Family Affair
One of the most important ways we can influence our children is by changing family culture.
Whether it’s starting to take weekend bike rides, going out on camping trips, or cooking together, the more we incorporate healthy family activities (and the less time we spend on the couch in front of technology) the more our children will come to expect and want them.
Another family-related element to consider has to do with rewards and celebrations. Previous generations have used junk foods as “treats” and celebrations. Instead of using unhealthy food as rewards, consider celebrating achievements like grades by taking the family to a trampoline park, theme park, or rock climbing. The family that plays and lives healthy together certainly has a good foundation to stay that way.
Infographic: A Snapshot of Diabetes in America
Content source: Division of Diabetes Translation: National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion