March is National Health Month. As I write this (on February 9, 2013) our FLOTUS marks the third year anniversary of the Let’s Move campaign—an endeavor to end childhood obesity and encourage a healthier generation of kids. With this in mind, I pose the question, what are you doing to encourage healthy habits in your children?
There is a famous saying (and book written by Robert Fulghulm), “All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten.” Essentially, these words are meant to convey that what we learn as children stays with us as adults. As adults, we can take a reflective look at our childhood and see which impressions from that period remain present. With that knowledge, as parents, we must be mindful that the experiences we encourage in our children will have a lasting impact on their future. As you encourage your children to adopt and exemplify healthy habits, keep in mind these four tips.
- Lead by example. The first teacher your child will ever have is YOU. Children learn, in part, by imitating the actions they see performed by their parents and caregivers. Are you acting in a way that promotes good health? If you are physically active, chances are, your children will be too. If you eat healthy foods, your children will have no other options.
- Exercise your body and your mind, and encourage your children to do the same. It is crucial to overall health that you remain active both physically and mentally. Try exercising for a minimum of 30 minutes for at least 4-5 days per week. Encourage physical activity through small things like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. In addition to working your body, remember to work your mind. Try doing things you haven’t done before and encourage your children to do the same. Give your children a crossword puzzle or teach them to play Sudoku. The biggest mistake a parent can make is to underestimate the capacity of their child’s ability to learn and thrive. Help your children push their bodies and brains to the limit and watch them flourish.
- Make healthy eating cool. If you’re like me, you deal with your children’s ever-changing tastes and preferences. I remember that as babies, my children would happily eat their pureed green vegetables. As they have gotten older, I have watched them stare down the green vegetables with disdain. I’ve developed a few techniques that work well within our household such as pureeing and mixing vegetables into other more desirable, fun foods, like spaghetti sauce or turkey meatballs. To get my kids to eat carrots, we all pretend to be Bugs Bunny (What’s up Doc?). They also enjoy the Nickelodeon show Fresh Beats Band. In the show, the kids frequent a Smoothie Bar. We drink a lot of smoothies around here.
- Get and stay healthy as a family and make it fun. The best thing you can do in an endeavor to keep your kids healthy is do it WITH them. I used to say to my sons, “Let’s workout together.” They would sigh and ask if they really had to. I realized I had to get on their level with my desire for us to be more physically active, so I invested in an Xbox 360 + Kinect. Now one of our new favorite things to do (as a family) is play Power Rangers and Dance Central. Not only do we get in a pretty intense workout taking down the bad guys and busting a move, we also have a fun time together. At the end of our “workout” we reenergize with a smoothie that is full of spinach and carrots and the children are none the wiser.
What are things that you do to encourage healthy habits within your family and with your children? Have you tried any of the methods listed above? If so, how have they worked for you? Join us on Facebook and share your thoughts.
Melissa Brooks-Cuffee holds two Bachelors degrees from Towson University: one in Psychology, the other in English. She is a member of the Psi Chi and Lambda Iota Tau honor fraternities, and is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Baltimore. Melissa has assumed various administrative roles within the healthcare and mental healthcare field and maintains the positions of Administrative Assistant and Scheduling Coordinator at The Stone Foundation.
This article is intended for general education purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional counseling or medical care. If you are interested in seeking professional counseling, please call The Stone Foundation at 410-296-2004 or visit our website for more information.