New parents often laugh and cry over the sacrifices they make for their beloved babies.
Sleep, social outings, and even exercise and nutrition are deprioritized. But it is essential for parents to reclaim healthy routines for two big reasons.
#1: The Lesson of Oxygen Masks—In an airplane safety announcement, you are reminded to put your own oxygen mask on first. Parents need to think along the same lines to survive the journey of parenting.
We need the right quantities of quality sleep, balanced meals and exercise. Many are motivated to quit smoking when a child is born; we should be equally motivated to feed ourselves real food and take time to exercise.
If we don’t choose to make healthy choices, we won’t enjoy the journey or make it as far!
#2: The Reality of Copycats—We know our children will do what we do much more than they will do what we say. So if we want health to be important to them, we need to model how important a healthy lifestyle is to us! We know this is critical when it comes to tobacco exposure because children of smokers are more likely to smoke. Parents also need to make healthy food choices and get exercise—not just someday—but today!
Take Advantage of Local Resources
We in Lynchburg are so fortunate to have plenty of opportunities to help families live healthy by eating right and being active. One group, Live Healthy Lynchburg (LHL) serves as an umbrella organization to connect different groups in our community with the same goal—health. Their website, www.LiveHealthyLynchburg.com, has everything in one place including links to local cooking classes, CSRAs, farmers markets, indoor and outdoor exercise options as well as information about the wellness policy for Lynchburg City Schools, ideas for packing healthy snacks and lunches, healthy fundraising options and much more! Follow “Live Healthy Lynchburg” on Facebook for daily inspiration.
Remember this mantra: “Parents provide—children decide.” Give your children healthy food choices but don’t force them. If they don’t want it, they won’t starve. If they are hungry, they will eat it. Taste it yourself (remember they are copycats!) and educate them. Food is not just for fun—food is fuel. Emphasize the food’s super powers ( “it makes you really fast”), and instead of falling into the rut of “it’s good” or “it’s bad,” instead ask your child to use a variety of words to describe it; for example, is it crunchy or chewy? Keep a notebook of all the healthy foods your child tries with a page for each one. Reward them with a sticker (not sugary treats) just for trying!
Kids exposed to gardens are more likely to consume healthy foods plus little gardeners will be so proud to eat what sprouts! LHL has given grants through the Lynchburg Area Food Council (LAFC) for many local community gardens. At our local farmers markets, kids can see the produce, talk to the farmers and even watch cooking demos with free tastings! Plan a trip to pick strawberries in the summer and apples in the fall. Money doesn’t grow on trees, but good food does! Remember skipping breakfast increases the risk of diabetes and negatively affects school performance.
Kids are inspired to exercise when they see their parents sweat! Our Department of Parks and Recreation offers a wealth of opportunities to get sweaty on a trail, in a park, on a team or in a class [Psst! read more about their offerings in our feature on page 8!].
Did you know kids need to move 60 minutes a day? In 2014, LHL lobbied hard to increase recess to 25 minutes a day but this is not enough. Just like family meals, family activities allow parents to model healthy habits. Look for the park or trail nearest your home and make a family walk part of your weekend routine. Lynchburg offers many unique options for getting active; check out a copy of Lynchburg Legs, a children’s book guiding a walking tour of downtown, for a unique family experience!
Parenting can feel overwhelming. But rather than increasing your stress, getting outside is a great way to relax, stay fit and inspire healthy habits for your children! As a parent, you owe it to yourself and your kids to treasure your family’s health!