I’ll never forget it. It was 1999. A friend of mine said to me, “Personal health is the next big thing.” He started a business that has gone on to become very successful and made billions of dollars. He was right, and he saw ahead of time what we all see now: taking care of our bodies is one of the most important things we can do in this life.
As a parent, I feel the responsibility to help my kids take care of their own bodies. As a parent, I’m sure you feel the same.
It seems as if the world is out to steal our health away from us. We’re always one click or commercial away from unhealthy food. It’s everywhere. What can you do to protect and guide your family into healthier living? This is the multi, multi-million dollar question of our day.
Here’s how a lot of our student’s daily routine goes:
- wake up tired from being on their phone throughout the night
- go to school, indoors
- come home, indoors
- stare at their phone and have an after school unhealthy snack, indoors
- eat a quick dinner, indoors
- do homework, indoors
- go to bed, indoors
- stay up throughout the night on their phones, getting little rest
You no doubt noticed the amount of time spent indoors. Being outside is becoming more and more the exception rather than the rule, especially as our kids become teenagers. We know that there are basic common needs for us humans: rest, water, sunshine, fresh air, physical activity and movement. It often seems our culture and routines go completely against these basic principles. It’s no wonder that our kids are struggling with motivation when they are never drinking water, resting, getting in the sunshine and moving their bodies.
Let me share some thoughts as a father who has raised three children. No, we’re not perfect. In fact, we made a lot of mistakes and weren’t always the greatest examples. (If you only knew!) But health was a conversation that was a common thread in raising our family.
LET YOUR WORDS TAKE YOU SOMEWHERE
First off, have conversations about health. You don’t have to be an expert, but allow it to be a part of your everyday conversations. This can include things about healthy eating, exercise, etc.
For some families and parents, this is easy. But for many, it is not. Health can be a taboo topic in some homes, especially if parents feel guilty about not being a good example.
So if it’s easy for you, keep the conversations going. Tell them things you are learning, and ask them what they are learning. Students today are sponges and are immersed in constant information regarding so many topics. I guarantee there are things you’d never dream of that your kids know about health.
If it’s not easy for you to break through this barrier and open the door for the topic. An easy way is to ask questions like, “What are you learning at school about health?” “What’s your favorite food?” or about their involvement in sports or physical activities.
Conversations like this led to some pretty significant action steps for our family. We didn’t plan on this happening, but it did. For example, one day we were talking about how bad soda was for you (probably as we were drinking it!), and we decided to try going for an entire year without drinking it. We all did it as a family. In fact, we have done this multiple years. One of the things that helped this was offering a monetary reward at the end of the year, which we did!
Another time I asked our daughters if they’d like to run a race with me. One took me up on the offer, and at 15 years old, having never run a race before, she ran a 25k (15.5 miles) with me. This was a huge challenge for us, but we trained together and ended up really bonding over this experience. Years later, she is still a regular runner and has run many other races since.
These life-altering examples all started with simple conversations in the most random places.
SET RHYTHMS THAT ARE CLEAR AND COMPELLING
Kids want boundaries. That’s a major theme I’ve noticed in 30 years of youth ministry work and parenting. Make it simple and clear, and they will succeed.
Do you have boundaries for your kids? Here are some questions to think about:
- What rules, if any, do you have for your students and technology? Are they on their phones all the time, day and night, or do you have restrictions?
- What boundaries do you have for health and nutrition? Are certain foods or times of eating off limits, or are your kids making these decisions without any guidance or restrictions from you?
- What incentives are you creating for your kids to live healthy lifestyles? Do you have any rewards or systems in place to make your kids want to be more healthy?
CREATE A CHALLENGE WITH A REWARD!
Every year for over 10 years, our family did a New Year’s resolution, and we had a pretty good success rate with them. We would decide together as a family what we would do together, and often we each had our own individual goals as well. Day by day, we held each other accountable for these commitments, and it changed our family dynamic in so many great ways.
I mentioned the soda challenge already. We also did other food related things like no fast food for a year, excess sugar, etc. While some of our resolutions were not physical health challenges, they often were. Doing this together as a family created bonds and memories that we still talk about on a regular basis.
Don’t forget to reward your kids. Make it fun. Ask them what would motivate them. It could be money, a trip or experience, or a gift of some kind. But this is an important component to making it work.
The #1 key to success is making this decision together as a group and giving everyone input.
Make the choice to do all you can to help your kids live physically healthy lives. It won’t be easy. Maybe it feels overwhelming. Start small, start talking, and find out what motivates your kids. Then decide together and go for it!
CEO & Founder
Never The Same