As we spring into Spring and we move our attention from hibernating to the promise of longer, brighter and warmer days, it might be that you also start considering how to encourage the members of your clan (aka family) to be healthier.
What does keeping your family healthy mean to you? Did you come up with food (nutrition) and exercise? What about emotional health?
Nutrition features highly on any parent’s agenda, especially if you have a fussy eater. Even if you don’t the constant thought stream that fills your head around the subject of food is mind blowing. Have they eaten? What have they eaten? How can I feed them more vegetables? What has their water intake been? Is it ok that they have just eaten dirt?
Here are my ideas when it comes to feeding your families:
- Balance, think about their meals across a week rather than a day. Especially when children are younger they tend to have ‘bad’ food days but if you put it in the context of a week it may put it into perspective.
- Variety is the spice of life and all of that!
- Meal plan together, this could be a game changer, hear their voices, get their ideas, make a plan.
- Picnic style meals, who doesn’t love a bits and bobs meal. Put it on the floor on a picnic blanket, let them graze, can they help pick the bits from the fridge and cupboards to put out?
- Hidden vegetables, what can you grate into meals? Even if you ‘hide’ vegetables, I would also always present them in their whole state as well, a small quantity so they can see, try and experience ‘if’ the time is right for them!
- Encourage your children to try food (they don’t necessarily need to eat it all but they do need to try), different times, different days, different months. Just because they did or didn’t like it on Monday does not meant they will or won’t like it on Wednesday.
- Present food to them multiple times. They say you need to present a food to a child many, many times before they are either willing to try it or dare I say like it!
- Involve your kids in cooking, teach them to chop, grate, read a recipe, stir, etc. You may find they eat it if they made it.
Exercise is an easier box to tick as children generally love to move, at top speed possibly in the opposite direction to the one you want to go in! You can also disguise exercise in trips to the park or walking to the river to feed the ducks. When they get older and possibly are not particularly sporty or actively involved in a team then you need to get more creative in your ways to get them moving.
Here are my top tips to get your families moving:
- Talk about how you can move together as a family, get the kids ideas
- Discuss with your kids what the benefits of exercise are not only for their physical body but for their mental health as well
- Family exercise, more gyms these days are putting on session where the whole family can do circuits, trampolining or simply use the gym equipment together
- Try Geocache or Orienteering
- Trampolining (in your back gardens or at a trampolining park)
- Play Barns
- Dog walking (not got a dog, borrow a friends)
- Try new sports, it might be that your child hasn’t found their calling in the team sports arena. Think outside the box.
- Exercising is a great way to make new friends
The emotional health of our kids is an area that I am particularly passionate about. Is this something you actively work on with your family?
Emotional health does not mean that we are teaching our kids that they have to be happy all the time. Emotional health is educating and nurturing our children to be aware of their emotions and allowing them to be in control of their thoughts, feelings and behaviours and ensuring they are able to cope with life’s challenges.
Here are my thoughts on how to encourage a positive emotional health in our kids:
- Connect with others, play dates, walks to the park, visits with grandparents. People need connection and this includes our kids.
- Talk, I mean really talk. Discuss the ‘highs, lows and unexpected’ that happens in your day and that of your children.
- Show your emotions, don’t let your child think that everything is ok if it is not, show them the highs and the lows, name it, explain how you are feeling. Encourage your kids to do them same. You can use an ‘I feel’ statement, ‘I feel …….. because ………’. Then you need to work out what you are going to do next, to move forward, to fix etc.
- Think before you act, can they pause before they speak or act. Pausing can simply be a breath or a count to 5.
- Express their feelings in appropriate ways. How can you catch them doing the right thing, compliment them, praise them, let them know that there are better ways to express their feelings than perhaps shouting or tantrums (although these are perfectly normal)
- Bedtime routine, a sound nurturing bedtime routine cannot be underestimated, no matter what the age of your child. Kids need to sleep, to recharge. What this bedtime routine would look like is very dependent on you and your family.
- Meditation, introduce a meditation to their morning or evening
- Breathing, sounds simple but this is a powerful tool when feeling overwhelmed or anxious. Try getting them to simply breathe in through their nose and out through their mouth for 4 or 5 breaths as a way to calm or relax themselves
- Love languages show your kids unconditional love. How does your son or daughter like to receive love?
- Self confidence and self esteem use praise, set realistic goals with your children, teach them that failure is ok, encourage them to have a go, to take a risk
- Opportunity to play, time for play is often something that is lost in place of our ‘busy’ lives, children need to play and have fun
- Gratitudes, teach your kids to express their thanks, can they think of 3 things that they were grateful for that day?
- Journaling, encourage your child to keep a journal, write, draw what is going on for them
- Interests, encourage and support their interests even if they might differ to your own. Your child is their own self, not a smaller version of you.
As you work on how you are going to encourage the all round health of your families, I would suggest you pick one thing from each of the 3 areas: Nutrition, Movement, Emotional Health and work on these, if you try and tackle too much it may well not happen. Small steps, Rome wasn’t built in a day and one step to try and bring about change is better then no step at all.
This article was originally written for Small Talk Magazine.