Back to school time is upon us yet again. It’s a great time of year to evaluate your life and set some goals for the upcoming months. One thing I encourage all families to do is develop a family philosophy of health. I encourage parents to discuss it first and then involve the kids. Discuss areas you’d like improve such as cutting back on snacking, skipping breakfast or eating fried foods. If kids don’t understand the “why” some things are limited this is a perfect opportunity to explain it to them. Here’s some help to get you started.
Eating Out – Will we be a family that eats fast food? If so how often?
Eating while watching TV, on the computer, on the phone, etc. – Is this allowed?
Snacking after dinner – Is this allowed?
Salt – Can we commit to not using a salt shaker at the table?
Sodas, Gatorade, Sweet Tea, etc. – Will we stock these in the house? Will we order them in restaurants?
Desserts – Will we only have desserts for special occasions or all the time?
How often will family members exercise?
What constitutes exercise?
Any limits on computers/TV/video games?
How does this differ from summer to school year?
Will the family commit to being active together? How so?
This is just a short list to get you started. Here’s an example of a family (mom, dad, son age 14 and daughter age 10) that recently developed their philosophy.
Month 1 we commit to:
Limiting fast food to no more than twice a week.
No one will eat while watching TV. We commit to sitting down as a family for dinner at least 5 nights/week.
Mom agrees to try healthier recipes and always stock fresh fruit that will be OK to eat for dessert and/or snacks.
We no longer will have a salt shaker on the table.
Mom and Dad commit to walking at least 30 min/day 4 days per week.
The kids agree to take the dog on a 20 minute walk every other day.
Month 2 we add the following commitments:
Cut our intake of sweet tea to no more than 1 12 oz serving/day.
The kids agree to try new vegetables – at least 1 per week.
The daughter agrees to take ballet lessons and the son agrees to enroll in karate.
Parents will not reward kids with food.
The single most important factor in predicting success is whether or not the parents set an example of healthy living. Parents can’t eat ice cream every night after the kids go to bed and then tell them they can only have ice cream on special occasions. If you want your kids to exercise, they need to see you commit to training for a 5K, going to a personal trainer or buying a bicycle and hitting the road. Teaching your kids healthy habits while they are still at home is one of the most important gifts you can give them. It will keep on giving for a lifetime!