We know the importance of our role as our children’s first teachers. We know how important it is to read and talk with our children when they are young, we know the importance of teaching good manners, we know the importance of teaching empathy, and teaching important skills like riding a bike, making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and folding laundry as well. But what about the importance of actually being well?
Teaching children to be well is not just about telling them to eat more vegetables and turning off the t.v. in hopes that they get up and get more active. Teaching wellness to your kids is so much more than telling them, the secret really is about BEING well too and teaching by leading not just by saying.
Of course, we all want to be the healthiest version of ourselves and we want to (maybe? hopefully?) rub off on our kids. But how do we do this? How do we teach our children well?
I don’t have all the answers to this question, I don’t think anyone does. I do, however, have a two simple, actionable tips that I have noticed have worked for me and my family over the past year and a half to create a positive attitude towards wellness.
MAKE THE ACTIVITY FUN
I don’t care if you are a runner, a weight lifter, or you do yoga in your living room, you have to make it FUN. Kids gravitate to fun (hell, most adults gravitate to fun too, am I right?). So when something looks fun to them? Yeah, they are going to want to try it for themselves.
I guess I should clarify a little. When I say to make it fun, I don’t mean adding extras to mask what is really going on. When I say to make it fun, I mean YOU (the parent) really have to enjoy it. No complaints, no “I HAVE to workout”, and no negative talk about your body while working out (or EVER really).
Our kids want to be just like us but they aren’t going to take on the behaviors that we have negative feelings about (they are kind of smart like that). Be positive about your workouts, let your kids know that you GET to workout and that you are doing it to be stronger and healthier. Don’t apply attributes to it that your kids can’t connect with like blood pressure, weight loss, etc. Show them that working out makes you happy, that it gets your heart rate up (my three year old is a big fan of listening to her heart beat), and that it makes you a stronger person ( yes, muscles are quite appealing to a three year old for whatever reason), these things will help spark an interest with young kids and help them create their own positive relationship towards physical activity.
LET THEM PARTICIPATE
Whether its creating a healthy grocery list, putting things in the shopping cart, or throwing veggies into a pot for soup, kids LOVE TO HELP! O.k, maybe once they get to be teenagers it will be different, but young kids LOVE to help, so why not take advantage and teach them some lessons while you are at it?
The more kids are part of the process, the more they will ask questions, and the more they ask questions, the more they will LEARN! Notice how I didn’t say how kids will magically start wanting to be healthy just because they are participating in cooking healthy? Yeah, that’s because I’m not going to lie, my 3 year old STILL will not touch certain foods even though I let her shop and cook with me. BUT, I am a sucker for silver linings so here are a few positives from my own experience; she now knows the names of all the vegetables, spices, and herbs that I use in cooking, she has tasted a few vegetables (that she wouldn’t have otherwise tried), and she actually eats/likes a few vegetables that were on her “NO WAY” list just 6 months ago. Progress, not perfection. I know you have heard that one before.
Participation leads to a dialogue about healthy activity. A dialogue leads to understanding and acceptance. Let your little ones start participating now and I can *almost* guarantee that 6 months from now that there views on certain healthy activities will change for the better.
Teaching our kids is a gift and a responsibility. As parents we need to realize that teaching our children well really starts within ourselves. Let us make wellness fun, enjoyable, and hands on for our kids. When we teach them in this way, we are opening a door for a life long appreciation for all things healthy.