How to Raise Healthy Kids While Letting Them Be Kids
Health-conscious parents tend to be vigilant when it comes to what their children are eating or drinking, what they are exposed to in their environment, and how they spend their time.
They are concerned about statistics related to childhood obesity and chemical exposure, and seek to protect their children from harm while educating them about the things that can either hurt them or help them thrive. At the same time, they’re conscious about preserving and restoring our natural environment for future generations.
It’s a lot to balance, and many parents do this with grace and style. But it’s also easy to get carried away and forget that too much of a good thing can lead to unintended consequences.
While parents have a tremendous influence over the health and wellbeing of their kids, it’s impossible to shelter them from the world at large completely, especially as they grow older and realize that not everyone shares the same preferences.
The key is to offer gentle guidance and be a positive role model while letting kids be kids!
Here are 5 ways to raise healthy kids without going overboard:
1. Focus on enjoyment.
Getting kids to eat healthy shouldn’t be a struggle or a punishment, but it does require some patience and creativity. If you kids hate broccoli, don’t force it, and instead try spinach, squash, carrots, or cucumber! Present it in different ways, prepared with a variety of other ingredients, until you strike upon some dishes they’ll like. If wholesome and flavorful foods are a given in most meals without the added stress of eating things they despise, kids are more likely to develop a healthier relationship with those natural ingredients.
2. Assess your stress.
Kids pay more attention to how you act than what you say. Let them see you doing the things that you consider part of a healthy lifestyle, but at the same time assess your attitude towards those things and modify your behavior if you notice that something is paired with tension that negatively affects those around you. For example, if you realize that your determination to work out every morning, prepare healthy meals for every dinner, or seek out natural products every time are actually hindering the enjoyment of a particular time with your family, then let some things go. The occasional hot dog and movie night can take the pressure off perfection and shows your kids that you can balance both health and fun.
3. Remember 90/10.
We have pretty amazing bodies that are able to filter toxins, excrete waste, and fight off harmful invaders, which means that if you eat healthy 90% of the time your body can handle indulgences once in a while, and so can your kids! At Integrative Nutrition we call this the 90/10 rule, and it might just help you enjoy more of the pleasurable and social elements that food and other activities can bring.
4. Avoid vilifying.
While you can certainly be honest in saying that some things aren’t good for your health, vilifying with a passion might send a message of fear, deprivation, or envy if kids see their friends engaging with those things. Over time this could result in a counter effect of desiring the “bad” things as an act of rebellion or restoring some emotional balance. A better approach is to calmly explain why you believe some things should be left behind in favor of other, more beneficial or healthful things. Similarly, people we know might make choices that different from ours, but that doesn’t make them less loved or valued.
5. Inspire your community.
Healthy kids thrive in a healthy community, so do what you can to share your love of wellness with others in a positive way, without restriction, judgment, or even too much information. It’s all about friendly invitation and allowing others to discover it in their own way. In situations of community gatherings or school functions, be the one to bring something healthful and appetizing, such as fruit infused water as an alternative to soda, or a colorful salad to have alongside the usual party fare. Have healthy options become more available and let the interest unfold naturally.
How do you raise your healthy kids with moderation? Share in the comments below!