As a parent, you are probably very focused on your child’s health. You pay close attention to what they eat, when they sleep and how much fresh air and exercise they get daily. If you’re like me, though, you’ve let your own health slide.
- Your kids are GMO-free foods with fresh produce and grass fed meats daily, while you’re still ordering takeout for yourself.
- Their activity levels at school and weekly sports have made them trim and fit, but you are still spending most days with your butt in the chair and glued to the screen for work.
- You carefully figure out their nutrient requirements and pour water for them all day long, but you’re lucky the days you remember to supplement or drink more than one glass of water.
Our kids end up healthier than we do – and that's a good thing, but can they teach use anything about taking care of ourselves? Outside of our efforts to help them, kids naturally do things that contribute to good health. Here are 5 ways our kids teach us about living healthy.
When kids say, “Blech! I won’t eat that!”
We can learn: Eat healthy foods you like.
I know this sounds like a no-brainer and it is – when we’re cooking for our kids. Kids don’t care about how trendy kale is right now. If they don’t like it, they won’t eat it. And there’s only so many times you can put brussel sprouts on your child’s plate before you realize they may never like this one and move onto another vegetable. Unfortunately when we cook for ourselves, sometimes we get obsessed with “this is good for me” or “this new craze packs in all the nutrients I need.” For example, I’m not a big fan of salads. I grew up eating very plain ones for dinner at times and they just bore me and usually don’t fill me up, unless they are full of bacon and avocado. For me, a good salad takes a lot of work – as much as a hot meal. So I’d rather make a healthy, filling hot meal for my family and enjoy that instead. Don’t eat foods just because they are good for you. Eat foods because they fill you, are satisfying and are healthy. Just like a kid, that will keep coming back for more!
When kids say, “I don’t want to take vitamins!”
We can learn: Find nutrition that works for you.
Kids don't like taking vitamins unless they are loaded with junk you don’t want them to have, like dyes and sugar. As most kids grow up, they just stop taking them altogether. I know I did! As adults, we can get very lazy with supplements. They are pricy, they don’t go down easy and they are the first thing to fall off our health goals. But it doesn't have to be that way. Recently, I found a wonderful essential nutrition powder that requires just a scoop a day and can be mixed into a healthy smoothie – or I will dump in a vitamin capsule. It’s cost-effective, one container lasts a long time and using it is a no-brainer. Organic caffeine-free green tea is a new nighttime relaxant for me and I often buy varieties that support good health. And I love adding coconut oil to my morning coffee and blending it to make a nutritional latte. If you find you’re struggling with your daily supplements, find supplement solutions that you can mix into your regular meals, rather than adding a pill to your routine.
When kids say, “I love jumping!”
We can learn: Work out like a kid does.
When was the last time you heard a kid complain about bouncing on a trampoline, taking a swim or playing tag? Never? Me either. In fact, my 12-year daughter is thin and lanky but she is covered in muscles and yet, doesn’t have a “workout routine” or “gym class.” Instead, she is always in motion. She runs, climbs, plays, jumps and all she needs to do is see a ball or a baseball bat to wrangle you into playing sports with her. My younger daughter will often drag around our mini-trampoline so she can jump while watching a movie or playing a video game. For a child, fitness is not about spectacular abs, losing your muffin top or even getting fit. It’s about having fun. A great way to get fit is just to join your children with their activities: Take a walk. Play ball with them. Let them swing you on at the playground. Or, just do something when you’re alone, like a hike on a nature trail, or load up a dance video and work out to that. We bought that mini-trampoline for our kids but I made sure it held an adult too, so I could use it to have a fun workout myself!
When kids say, “I want to go home.”
We can learn: Rest when you are tired.
Even though kids usually want to stay to the end of every party, stay up past midnight on New Year’s Eve, stay up to wait for Santa, as every mom knows, sooner or later their body just gives up after a long day and they long for bed. As adults, we ignore those cues because there’s “so much to do!” We tend to over-schedule, over-plan and overdo and ultimately end up overwhelmed. A child’s body has not yet been trained to ignore those cues and so they conk out or, sometimes to our surprise, ask to go home. As an older mom raising kids with sensory issues, I learned a long time ago to respect their requests even if we are at an expensive event. We need to learn to do the same for ourselves. If you don’t respect your body when it signals that it needs rest, you can suffer fatigue that will make you susceptible to illnesses. Studies link insufficient sleep to heart disease, diabetes and obesity, not to mention cognitive problems, like poor memory and loss of focus. It’s time for us adults to listen to that inner message that says, “I want to go home.”
When kids say, “Can you help me?”
We can learn: Accept help when you need it.
Recently, we bought my daughter lace up sneakers, even though she only partially knows how to tie her shoes. Despite this, she loves her new shoes so whenever she wears them, she asks me for help. My daughter is fiercely independent and insists on doing what she can on her own but she has no shame asking for assistance in the things she can’t yet do or is struggling with. That is a lesson we can all learn. I have a great difficulty asking for help but recently found myself in a challenging situation that could not have been resolved without supporting friendships. I had to ask for help even though it was outside of my comfort zone. A lot of times, moms feel like we need to be “Super Woman” and do everything for ourselves but the truth is, our community of close friends and family is there for us. In fact, if someone offers to help you out in some way, you should consider accepting it. Their offer is a kindness – and you may be denying them the chance to do a good deed by turning them down. Ask for and accept help to prevent burn out! You'll be glad you did.
We tend to ignore words that come from the mouths of babes, but children are amazing teachers. They naturally put their health first – without realizing it – and we can learn some valuable lessons from that example.
What are the children in your life teaching you about looking after your health?