Children’s Health: How Do I Get My Child To Own Their Health
As a parent we are bombarded with so much information about how to raise the most perfect, healthy children. One area where parents feel the most guilt is their child’s wellness. I have worked with parents and children for over 15 years as either a wellness coach or a Health Educator. I am a parent myself and have read countless research on the health of our children. Children’s health has always been my passion, but when I had children on my own, I gained so much more real life experience. I am going to share with you my philosophy. You can take it or leave it, but I hope that you can find some information here that will help you to create healthier habits for your children.
Many parents want to start by overhauling their pantries, taking away all sugar, etc., but where I tell parents to start first is with themselves. You see kids are sponges. They literally are looking at everything you are doing. If you are waking up eating donuts and starting the day with soda (yes, even diet soda) they will do the same. So even if they do not make the best choice at dinner, when they see you chose the salad over the burger, you are sending your child a message to make the healthier choice. Do not expect your child to do something that you are not doing. Start with role modeling healthy habits and your child will benefit greatly!
The second step I want parents to take is quite simple. Crowd out the not so healthy foods with whole foods. Last week at Augusta Circle Elementary, we focused on crowding out the processed foods with whole foods. What does this look like? If my boys want to have chips, I ask them to pair it with a whole food (apple, orange, carrots,etc.) So yes, this health coach has chips and cheezits and snack foods in my house. The boys have two drawers that we call their “slow” drawers, meaning they are not “Go” foods (fruits, veggies, protein). My goal is to get as many whole foods into their bodies as possible so there is not as much room for the processed foods. This method also does not create shame around food. We focus on the positive!
TEll Them Why
Here’s the deal, I realize that I might have a different parenting style than others. We are very open with our boys and do not raise them to not know of the struggles in the world around them. This applies to health as well. I am not scaring them, but I am very honest and open about what happens to the body when someone has a not had a healthy lifestyle. It is extremely hard for children to just be expected to make choices without the reasons why. Therefore, I talk about diabetes, stress on the body, heart disease, self-confidence, and having a stronger body to play sports. Then it falls on them, if you take care of your body this will happen, if not then there is a high probability that you will struggle with a body that is not working at optimal. And once again we model this for them.
Okay, so this mama does have rules around sugar. Through my research I have found that there is one thing that is consistent with all studies and that is the fact that sugar raises insulin, causes inflammation and contributes to a host of chronic illnesses. Do the boys have sugar? Yes! However, they were taught at a young age that they should not exceed 25 grams of added sugar per day. We do not have sugar sweetened beverages in our home, they can have this once a month when we go out to dinner. The boys know how to read a food label and how to find the added sugars. We do not keep sugar in the house. We focus on treats at the ball park, the weekends, when grandparents come into town and for Holidays. I teach them to monitor their sugar intake because this is a life skill. For those of you who have read my book, I focus on resetting and this is the habit I teach our boys as well. Stay consistent, have some flexibility and then RESET.
Teach Your Children To Own Their Health
I am going to end on the absolute most important tool I use with our boys. When I think about where I want our boys to be in life, the answer is ALWAYS HAPPY AND HEALTHY. As a parent, I really try and let the boys guide their lives. Now that is not to say that we do not have limits and get on the boys, but what I mean by that is that Tyler and I want them to have their own voice, be their own people and learn to make their own decisions. This includes food as well. Some of my wellness friends would disagree and say that their children can never have A, B or C and listen I totally get that, it makes me cringe when I see the boys eating certain things. But I have learned that when I give them the power to make their own health choices, most of the time they will come to me and say, “Mom, I have had too much sugar this weekend, can we reset?” Now this to me says, guess what Mom, I can make a healthy choice and I understand what this food is doing to my body and I want to add whole foods in.
The only thing that I have a hard rule on is dinner. What I cook is what you will eat, unless you would like to cook your dinner yourself. And guess what? sometimes my first born is known to cook his own dinner. It is not a dinner full of sugar, just maybe a little different from ours. Once again, this teaches a valuable life skill, do things for yourself if things are not what you might like. All of our boys know their way around the Kitchen, yes our house ends up a mess, but I am looking at what it is teaching them long term. I would like for my children to learn life long wellness habits and sometimes that means that they have to figure things out for themselves instead of me yapping in their ears. Focus on giving them the tools they need to make their own choices around health. It is okay to have limits, but it is also okay and needed to give kids the opportunity to own their health.