Ensuring our children grow up healthy and strong has become more and more difficult. Most of us have less time to spend with them to ensure a healthy upbringing. We tend to eat out more which leads to a bad diet coupled with bad habits. The popularity of video games and other indoor entertainment keeps them sedentary. At every turn it is easier to go with the flow and allow our children to grow unhealthy and without the proper knowledge to change that. It was not easy for me to ensure my child’s healthy upbringing. I usually worked over sixty hours a week. I liked video games, movies and the internet. Then I divorced before my son’s second birthday which made it even more difficult to influence a healthy lifestyle upon him. But my son’s healthy upbringing was much too important and I devised ways in which to aim his health in the right direction.
TEACH THEM, DON’T FORCE THEM
Since I only saw my son on weekends, I could not count on forcing proper nutrition on him. I couldn’t put a plate of vegetables in front of him when I wanted to. Instead I talked to him about nutrition and why he needed to eat healthy. I didn’t just say, “son, fried foods are bad.” I explained to him what fatty foods were doing to his body, why he might not see those effects immediately and why he needed to eat better. I didn’t just take away something he might like, I gave him a plausible alternative. I did the same with exercise and physical activity. I did not force into team sports or exercising, I gave him alternatives. He understood he could not play video games all day regardless of outside physical activity. So we would plan part of our time together to run, play catch or football, or some exercise. My goal was for him to make similar decisions in nutrition and exercise when I wasn’t around.
DON’T MAKE HEALTH AND NUTRITION A CHORE
While I did teach him certain things about nutrition, exercise and health, I did my best to not paint this as a chore. When children feel something is a burden or work, they tend to rebel against it. Did I tell my son he could never eat out or eat ice cream? Absolutely not! That would not be realistic. My idea was for him to eat right and be active as much as possible, not to turn away when a piece of cake was placed before him. I made it as simple as possible. I told him to ask himself, did he really need two servings of ice cream? Did he really need to upsize his meal? I did not want him to completely deny himself things he liked, just to limit the intake of those things. The same went for exercising. I told him to keep in mind the amount of time he spent indoors inactive as opposed to time spent exercising. One thing I did was buy him a puppy so he would take him on evening walks that soon became jogs.
FOLLOW YOUR OWN ADVICE AND STICK TO IT
One of the biggest hurdles I had to climb was overcoming the “do as I say, not as I do” credo. My son had a hard time believing and doing the things I asked him to early on because I was not following my own instructions on living healthy. I ate fast food regularly and was overweight. I drank alcoholic beverages. My son asked if what I asked him to do was so healthy, why didn’t I do it? I had no good answer and had to come to terms that I was living very unhealthy. It was hypocritical of me to ask my son to do something I was unwilling to do. So I stopped drinking and eating out. I took tuna and crackers to work for lunch. I began a steady workout routine. This showed my son the benefits of the lifestyle I was trying to teach him and he accepted it sooner and with ease.
Living healthy is not easy but it does not have to be a mountain of a task either. By teaching and showing our children the ways and benefits of a healthy lifestyle, we can prevent them from having some of the same and common health issues many of us face today.