Family health is a difficult thing to achieve. As parents, getting your kids active is no easy feat. It’s a delicate balance between wanting to get them healthy and not wanting to hurt their emotional growth in the process. We talk to clients a lot about overcoming weight issues that blossomed from events in their childhood. At a young age, our peers are the biggest influence on our emotional development and most of us wanted nothing more than to fit in. As much as we want to let our kids know they are special and different, they want nothing more than to be accepted into the pack. It’s an unfortunate truth that being overweight is a huge hindrance to social acceptance.
It’s also more difficult for our kids than it was for us. Before video games and computers, doing something fun meant being active…but that’s not the case anymore. Playing a game of hide and seek is hard to compare to a video game where you can be the hero that gets to save the world and get the girl. So what are you supposed to do?
Here are some tips to get your kids active without putting them on a diet or forcing them to take a trip to the gym. The best investment you can make into your child’s health, is your time.
1. Give them more responsibilities.
Nobody wants to be told they’re overweight, and it’s a hard subject to breach. So how about chores? A while ago we had an article about the calorie burn behind all your basic house chores. It’s something small, but every calorie counts. Instead of making your kids go for a run, tell them you feel they are old enough for some more responsibilities; mowing the lawn or walking the dog for example. Give them something that they have to do because they are growing up. They might not like it as much as some of the other ideas, but it gets them active and you are building them up emotionally rather than breaking them down.
2. Find common ground.
Kids like video games, and fortunately technology has advanced to allow much more active gaming than the days of old. One easy example are the dance games for the Wii, Xbox, and PS3 that are a ton of fun and have me sweating my butt off by the time I finish playing them. Make a night of it and have some fun with your kid by embarrassing them with your exquisite Michael Jackson dance moves. Who knows, maybe they might find a love of dance, which is a great activity for burning calories.
3. Remember what you thought was fun.
You may have had an active childhood that you can pass on to your kids. Thinking back I stayed active mainly because I had a trampoline that was one of my favorite things to do. I also used to run up and down the neighborhood with my best friends, all of us carrying super soakers pretending we were battling space aliens and each other. Investing in some squirt guns and playing water gun tag is a great way to get yourself and your kids active.
I was an awkward, untalented, and clumsy kid. Whether it was me kicking the soccer ball in the wrong direction, getting the black eye in baseball, or breaking my leg skiing, I never felt comfortable with most sports. If you have a kid who loves a team sport then that’s terrific, encourage them to pursue it. If your kid seems like they don’t have the coordination or confidence for sports, then this section is going to take a little more work. Find some one/two person sports that they might like. Tennis, racquetball, pickleball are some fun sports that might be worth a try. I didn’t find a passion for anything until I tried Kenpo karate when I was thirteen. My nephew tried pickleball once and absolutely loved it. He had his birthday party at the office where we have a court and all the kids had tons of fun with a casual sport played with a wiffle ball.
This one is a huge time investment and it’s not easy, but if you can find the sport your kid loves and has a talent for then it will definitely be worth the effort.
We get asked about how safe our shakes are for children and we usually don’t recommend it. Not because the shakes aren’t safe for kids, but because of the emotional issues of putting your kids on a diet. If your son or daughter approaches you about going on a diet, the best thing is to be supportive, but not overzealous. “We can definitely learn to eat healthier together, but you’re still growing and the body you have now isn’t the one you will have in 2 years or 5 years.”
Eating healthier has to be a team effort. Putting one single person in the family on a diet doesn’t work. Everyone could stand to eat healthier, but don’t put everyone on a calorie restrictive diet; rather, plan healthier meals and help create an understanding of the best eating habits.
Getting kids healthier is an emotional tightrope. A lot of the sites just say “get them out of the house!” like it’s some coverall bit of advice. It’s not that easy but it can be fun. It can also make you closer and help you during their teen years when they are much more susceptible to negative peer pressure.