As a parent, your child’s health is your responsibility. As such, it’s your job to encourage healthy eating and lifestyle habits. Of course, you can do a lot of good in this area, but at the very least try to make sure you do the following…
Know your child’s weight
If you don’t know your child’s weight or BMI right now, then you have no idea where your child stands health-wise. It’s 100% true that health issues aren’t all about the scale, but those numbers do matter. You should know your kid’s weight from babyhood through the teens years.
Talk about food and related health issues
Food portions, healthy vs. less healthy choices, calories and all the other food issues you can dream up shouldn’t be taboo in your home. Food, portions, calories and exercise are very normal parts of everyone’s lives. Your child has a right to know about food issues and it’s your responsibility to discuss said issues with him, ongoing, the entire time he lives in your home. Below are some basic facts your child should understand…
- Weight, food choices and exercise are not all about looking good – it’s about being healthy for life.
- Thin or overweight doesn’t always mean healthy or unhealthy BUT both issues can result in health problems.
- People who are at a healthy weight can still make poor food choices or might not get enough exercise.
- It’s not healthy to sit inactive all day long. Exercise and being active, offer many benefits beyond maintaining a healthy weight.
- No matter how healthy your food is, when it’s eaten in excess, that food can result in excess calories and weight gain.
You have to deliver the whole diet, health and lifestyle conversation package to your child. Not simply bits and pieces. Let your child know that weight, calories, exercise and food choices all combine to create a healthy lifestyle. Don’t just assume your child knows about healthy food because she exercises or knows about exercise because she’s thin. No matter if your child is overweight, skinny or right on target – food and health issues need to be discussed in your home.
Serve three healthy meals a day and snacks
I know parents who leave kids to fend for themselves food-wise, but you shouldn’t. Even if you talk about food, young kids still need help figuring out meals. I know teens and even younger kids who skip both breakfast and lunch daily, making up the difference with chips and other less healthy food, simply because no one is there encouraging them to eat.
I get that not all parents can be around their child for all three meals. I’m not around my own child all day either – Cedar eats lunch at school and stays at his dad’s on some weekends. However, Cedar heads off to school with a healthy lunch I know he’ll eat and I make sure I know what he’s eating at his dad’s house. When everything is nuts, or I have an appointment, I make sure to leave a healthy meal ready for him.
Be your child’s food advocate
In a world of school lunches and separated or divorced families, it’s hard to always stay on top of what your child is eating. Guess what though, that’s your job as a parent. If your child splits his time between two households, and the other parent feeds him high calorie fast food, huge portions, or doesn’t encourage exercise, it’s your job to advocate for your child. Even if what you say doesn’t seem to affect the other parent’s choices at first, keep talking about it. Your child’s health, even when he’s not with you, is your concern.
With this in mind, you should also be aware of what your child is eating at school. Find out what schools are serving and if you don’t like it, send a packed lunch.
One of the biggest hurdles parents have is denial about their child’s weight. If your child is overweight or too skinny or never exercises you do need to address it, not ignore it. I’ve met kids who are larger than their own parents are, kids with huge amounts of belly fat and even kids where someone else has said, “They weigh too much” such as a doctor, yet the parents just keep on saying, “My kids are just fine… they’re in no way overweight.” That’s denial.
Parents of underweight children or kids who never exercise may have some of the same denial issues. And while denial may be easier for everyone, it’s not healthy for your child.
Deal with your own food issues
Some parents allow their own food issues to affect their kids. If you have your own food issues, deal with them, or at the very least, don’t push them on your child. I was raised in a home where weight mattered more than food choices or exercise because being thin was compared to “being pretty” not “being healthy” as it should have been. I know it affected me and I had to work hard to deal with it so that I wouldn’t push issues onto my son.
I talk about food with my son, but I try to make it clear that food issues involve a wide range of topics, from food choices to activity to portions and so on. If you’re upset by past food issues, it can affect your parenting, so addressing these issues is important.