Among U. S. children of primary-school age, one in five is obese. Millions of children battle the draining stress of chronic anxiety or depression. The percentage of children with diabetes has nearly doubled since the beginning of the twenty-first century, as has the prevalence of many other chronic health problems.
Don’t despair for your own children in the face of these numbers. Help your family become part of the solution through empowerment for healthy living.
Take It Easy
Young children are naturally curious, resilient, and unrushed—all the qualities that make it possible to live free of toxic stress. So beware of constantly nagging kids to achieve, or “hurry up,” or “watch out, you’ll get hurt.” While it’s certainly our responsibility to protect and guide our children, it does more harm than good to approach that duty from a position of nonstop striving.
Feed Them Right
Too many families live on fast food because it seems quicker and easier than healthier options. You may not be able to prepare home-cooked meals every night, but there are plenty of healthy foods that require little time: fresh fruit, baby carrots, whole-grain breads, nuts, hummus. And in an age when pick-up and delivery of grocery items—or of whole healthy meals—is readily available, there’s little excuse for defaulting to “junk food.”
At least as much as unhealthy eating habits, sedentary lifestyles lie behind the epidemic of childhood (and adult) obesity. Provide your children with outdoor and indoor space for active play. And join them at least a few times a week: introduce them to classic games such as Tag, Red Rover, and Keep Away. Then let the kids exercise their imaginations by inventing their own versions!
Believe in Bedtime
Sleep deprivation is at the root of a multitude of health problems—and most primary-school children should have at least ten hours of sleep every night. Encourage them in this direction by establishing nightly winding-down routines they can enjoy: light snacks, stories, singing, counting the day’s blessings, being personally tucked into bed. (Leave television and computer time off the list: even with quieter programs, electronic screens temporarily impair the brain’s ability to shift from waking to sleeping. Ideally, avoid watching television yourself for two or three hours before the children’s bedtime.)
Also, make sure that children’s bedrooms are sleep-friendly: cool, dark, quiet, and uncluttered. For further benefit, keep most daytime-activity equipment in other rooms so the kids’ brains will become conditioned to associating the bedroom exclusively with sleep.
Note to Teachers
Whenever possible, incorporate personal-health pointers into lessons. Stay fit and well-nourished yourself to set an example (and to keep your strength up for the challenges of teaching). And remember that one good-health practice you can use “actively” in your classes is physical activity: try personally leading three or four exercise breaks a day!
A HEALTHY LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
Children learn best (and have healthier attitudes toward school) with regular breaks to burn pent-up energy—yet recess is an endangered institution in some school systems. At Shady Oak Primary, we know better. Besides providing daily opportunities for outdoor play, we emphasize active learning as well as fitness and nutrition for everyday life. Healthy bodies make healthy minds, and we believe in educating the whole child for maximum effectiveness in every aspect of life. Contact us today to learn more about our approach.