As parents we know that we have a big influence on our kids, and they are constantly comparing what we do with what we say. Our activity levels work the same way, and in this media age we live in, playing outside or exercising can be low on a child‘s to do list. We deal with this issue on a daily basis in our house. There have been times when my kids would go and lay down on the couch in the middle of the afternoon and say they were sooooo tired and wanted to watch t.v. even though they weren’t sick and hadn’t really done a lot of physical exertion. In their minds, they were bored and frankly it was just easy to plop there and do nothing. I understand that feeling, but I also understand what a bad habit that can become – very quickly. What a parent does in these situations can have a lasting impact on their child’s health.
Many studies have been done on parents’ activity level and how it affects their kids. Not surprisingly, active kids have generally have active parents, and inactive kids generally have inactive parents. The number of hours we spend watching t.v. impacts their t.v. time as well. Professor Jago at the University of Bristol conducted a study on this very topic and found that boys were even more impacted than girls. In the study, if the parents watched 2-4 hours or more of t.v. each day, the boys were 10 time more likely to watch 4 or more hours of t.v. while the girls were 3 times more likely. See what an impact we have? In kid lingo – monkey see, monkey do. 🙂 With the rising numbers of children developing Type 2 diabetes in recent years, parents really need to take action for themselves and their children.
In my house the t.v. can’t even be on if I expect my kids to be active and playing. It is such a distraction that they would even sit there and watch the weather channel if it was on. So most of the time the t.v. is off until homework is done and dinner is over and sometimes isn’t even turned on at all. I am not against t.v. mind you, just the bad habit of watching too much. My kids are lucky in some ways b/c they have plenty of bands, exercise balls and fun exercise related things to play with in the gym in my basement. Sometimes we will go down there and they will “hold an exercise class” where my kids make up the moves and workout stations – they like to be in control. Most of the time it ends up just being a lot of dancing and being silly, but that’s good b/c having fun is a key to staying active. :). What’s great about kids is you don’t need a lot of equipment. Playing chase in the yard, playing basketball, throwing the baseball, raking leaves, chasing after the dog…. are all great ways to get the kids (and the parents) moving.
It is also important to make staying active a conversation in the house. Once in awhile when it comes up I explain to my kids why we need to be active and play outside and how it helps them grow and keeps their hearts and muscles healthy. Kids love to know the “why” of things, and knowledge is a great way to convince them it is good for them and not just a chore from mom and dad. I have found that my kids really want to be healthy and take care of their bodies, and this is an are they feel they have some control (again they like control!).
As our kids enter those pre-teen and teen years they are faced with so many media images, stereotypes, and personal insecurities that we need to give them a strong foundation for what is healthy. Like all moms (of daughters especially), I dread the idea of them mentioning anything related to a negative body image. These concerns seem to be popping up earlier and earlier and even in elementary aged girls and even boys. I want my kids to see a mom who is active, strong, confident and focused on healthy and not skinny. As they get older negative body issues will come up ; that is just a given. However, we can be a strong role model and give them the inner common sense and confidence early on to combat these issues. A great way to do this is to encourage your kids to find a sport they enjoy. We have tried a lot of sports already with our kids and it has had a geat influence on them. It’s fun, keeps them active and teaches them team skills.
Next time your kids jump at the chance for an afternoon in front of the t.v. with you, get them moving -with you! It will grow the parent child relationship while keeping you both healthy and beginning good habits that will last a lifetime.
If you want to read more about the study mentioned above here is a link: