children have never been less healthy in the US.
Here’s how healthy living for kids
can improve children’s health
and make the world a better place for everyone!
Childhood obesity is rampant in America. The statistics are alarming.
Kids need to know about the importance of healthy living, and the best way to show them is for us adults to model it ourselves — to integrate daily healthy lifestyle principles into our daily routines!
“…don’t just teach it. Live it!”
This is one of the primary reasons I launched this healthy living site, instantDane.tv, several years ago. Though health information and statistics are already abundant online, what I saw missing was content that inspires and motivates others to prepare psychologically for change — to begin the process of actually stacking small, new, healthier lifestyle habits (with all the challenges that entails) into modern daily life.
The 4 Most Important Things Children Learn from their Caregivers
The pressures on parents these days is enormous. Double-income families and the higher cost of living are making homemaking a lost art and a forgotten science.
Healthy living for kids includes a love of vegetables, but how do we help kids love vegetables if we adults don’t love them ourselves? Kids love pizza, burritos and chicken nuggets and so do all their friends. It’s a very challenging time to be a parent!
Psychology has revealed to us that children absorb all kinds of secret messages during their formative years. Parents can drive themselves crazy trying to do everything perfectly. To keep from being entirely overwhelmed, here are just four of the most important messages children can unconsciously absorb from observing their parents.
#1 Kids Learn to Have a Relationship with Food
The problem with giving-in to children’s desires to constantly eat processed foods isn’t just what it does to the inside of their bodies, it’s also that they’re acquiring a taste for artificiality. Why build into children negative habits that they’re just going to have to struggle the rest of their lives to break?
“…the Double Gulp soda at your local convenience store holds 64 ounces –
that is half a gallon! It contains the equivalent of 48 teaspoons of sugar.
According to one nutritionist, your average fast food meal is more like three meals.
Our children are exposed to an onslaught of advertising for fast food.
Fast food chains spend more than $3 billion ever year on television advertising.
In one year, the typical American child watches more than 40,000 TV commercials.
Around 20,000 of these ads are for junk food.
By teaching our children how harmful fast food is and how to eat healthier,
they are empowered to make the right choices”
~ David Wolfe
#2 Kids Learn to Have a Relationship with their Own Physicality
When you carve out time each day from your busy schedule to exercise, you’re children see that you believe you are worth having some time to yourself for proper self-care. They see someone modeling how to take care of the sacred vessel that is the human body. Again, what they experience is not just someone talking about it, but someone actually doing it consistently. This registers unconsciouly with children in a majorly impactful way.
#3 Kids Learn What Love Looks Like
Most children have absorbed this by age 11. It’s very difficult for most people to “change the tape” of what they learned love is. Basically, children learn whether love is win/lose or win/win. If the marriage in the family of origin has one spouse feeling habitually resentful — whether it’s spoken about or not, whether the spouses are consciously aware of it or not — then the secret message can be “it’s only really love if someone is losing.”
#4 Kids Learn How to Self-Soothe
Unquestionably, children learn how to self-soothe from their caretakers — how to talk-it-out directly but calmly, how to breathe slowly and deeply, how to remain calm, graceful and dignified in a chaotic environment.
Daily life is anxiety-producing — it just is. Most of the little stresses and strains operate outside of our moment-to-moment awareness, but they are there all the same. We all need our strokes met. There are essentially only three ways to self-soothe:
- interdepend on people
- interdepend on nature
- try to self-medicate from “things“
“…people need strokes to survive physically and psychologically.
Stroke hunger is a fundamental, constant, and pervasive drive in all living beings”
~ Claude Steiner
▸ Interdepending on people can work miraculously well for making life feel meaningful. When you’re feeling anxious, to have another person who you respect or love, who listens carefully to your thoughts or feelings — and is genuinely interested and agendaless — someone who asks, “what can I do to help?” is just about the most instantaneously healing thing that can happen! For a child to see two adults work on a relationship in this way and be able to communicate patiently and tenderly with one another is: imprinting.
▸ Interdepending on nature also can work miracles on one’s psyche. Sunshine, quiet, fresh air, animals — all of these things can be soothing. As my mentor once said “it’s hard to go crazy at the beach.” For children to see caregivers turn to nature habitually — to restore and heal — is excellent modeling that serves a child well throughout life.
▸ Getting our stroke needs met from “things” also works astoundingly well — but only in the short-term. Strangely, self-soothing with things usually causes more problems than it solves and, in the long run, makes matters worse. It’s amazing how many seemingly “little” things there are to be addicted to in modern life: video games, romance novels, coffee, television, porn, sugar — you name it.
A good way to tell if you might be addicted to something is to ask, “can I even imagine my life without it?” (That’s how I realized that I’m addicted to tea and coffee! I literally can’t picture my mornings without my warm, caffeinated beverages!) Generally, it’s better if children can see the adults in their lives turn to other people and nature for soothing first (before turning to “things” for stroke needs).
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How Do Parents Help Their Kids to Be Healthier?
I recently interviewed Addictions Specialist and Marriage and Family Therapist (and married parent of three year old twins!) Lauren Wolff. Lauren works as a licensed clinician in a dual-diagnosis treatment center in Malibu, California. I think a lot of parents can relate to Lauren’s insights and experiences:
• How many times a year does someone in your house have the cold or flu?
During the school year we bring home germs from preschool constantly, but the summer months are better. I would say 4 or 5 colds a year.
• How do you handle it when someone in the family starts to come down with a cold or flu?
Generally, we are good about vitamins and the proper nutrition, but with three-year-old twins we are bound to get the occasional cold or flu. In our house, it is a “divide and conquer model.” We live in a small space, so keeping the “sickies” sleeping in the same room is paramount. I am also on chemo, so we have to move quickly in the direction of health. We rest more, have chicken soup, and wash hands a lot. When necessary, we head to the doctor’s office.
• What’s the hardest part of being a working parent?
My spouse and I work opposite schedules to avoid childcare costs and to spend the time with our young girls. The hardest part about this arrangement is not seeing my spouse more and not having as much time as a complete family as we would like. I am a psychotherapist, so it is important that I keep my self-care balanced in order to be of service to my patients and my family. When this balance is off, problems arise.
• What’s the best part of being a working parent?
I love being a parent and I love being a therapist, so I am blessed to be able to do both. The income is helpful also. Mostly, though, my daughters get to see me wake and dress each morning and go to a career that i’m excellent at and derive meaning from. Talk about positive imprinting. This is huge.
• What vegetables will your children eat?
I have one that will eat anything I put in front of her and one that I have to get creative in order to get her veggies in. They eat kale, spinach, cucumber, lemon juice in a smoothie form almost daily. We call it “fancy juice”. I also hide veggies in muffins, popsicles, meat loaf, quesadillas, and anything else that I can get away with it. We grow veggies too and it is always more fun to eat the things you grow yourself.
• How do you negotiate with in-laws and grandparents when it comes to feeding the children?
My mom is the main grandparent in their lives and her thinking regarding healthy eating/behavior are in line with ours. The other grandparents are out of state, so when we see them we allow for more “go with the flow eating” for a few days.
• What are your children’s favorite meals (if they could eat anything)?
One loves Mexican and one Italian.
• What are you favorite everyday rituals?
In the mornings we make breakfast together and eat together. We have reading time that we all enjoy. Bath time is a real adventure in our house that is more about play and giggles than on the necessary cleaning part. Night time includes reading, Little Bear, songs and drawing pictures on their backs in bed.
• If you could change one thing about how you spend your time, what would it be?
I would work fewer hours and spend more time with the family at home.
• How many times a week, on average, do you exercise?
I have been ill for the last year, so this is the part of my life that is currently out of balance. I am at my best when I can do a planned scheduled workout 2-3 times a week at Cardio Barre or Yoga.
Obesity in America: an infographic
Modeling Healthy Lifestyle Habits for Children
What’s one lifestyle habit that you would like to improve upon so that your own children can witness you doing it consistently? What’s one easy way for all of us to set a better example for the children in our lives? I invite your comments!