Orriant Mommy Blogger, Emily, talks about communicating with your kids, who are being attacked by society’s mixed messages.
I have been pondering a lot lately about communication between my children and me. I joke that, as parents, we can't wait for them to talk, then wish they would give a few minutes of silence, then once teenagers, we are back to wishing they would talk to us again.
Although my children are still young, I worry what messages I send them through my words. Am I encouraging? Do I help them to see their potential and instill confidence? Am I teaching them, not just by words, but by what they see me do? I don't think most parents purposefully say things to hurt a child. We ultimately want what is best for them.
How do we balance what we say against the influence that society provides? Especially, it's perspective of body image, comparisons, purpose for eating healthy, exercise, or “fad” diets. Society focuses on size, popularity, so called beauty, and success. But really isn't it about quality of life and taking care of what we are lucky to have? How do you most effectively teach the concept of eating healthy and exercise for health, not size or appearance?
Childhood obesity has more than tripled in adolescents in the United States, over the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This has had a profound effect on children’s health. Conditions formerly only seen in adults, such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, are now being diagnosed in children (Webmd.com).
My daughter is 8 years old. She is by no means overweight, she is just a tall 8 year old. She is over a head taller than all the girls on her soccer team. Her dad is 6'2” and I am 5'9”, so her tall height is expected. I remember as an 8 year old in ballet class feeling bigger than the other girls, but thankfully my mom helped me to find ways to celebrate it. I could run faster on the soccer field or leap further across the stage. But I still felt the influence from other girls, and emotionally struggled. I felt bigger and often less attractive. During the off season in college, I found myself extreme in my eating and exercise. Not to be fit, but to try to align my skewed image of myself with society’s reality. How easily reality can become distorted. I don't want to pass that sort of conflict on to my children. We come in all shapes and sizes. That's something to be celebrated!
I want to instill in my children to love their bodies, take pride in their appearance, and keep focused on their abilities. To appreciate what they can do and their potential. I find myself saying, “Make sure you are eating so your body can grow healthy. Listen to when your body says it's had enough.” Or, “Don't just eat because it tastes good, you can have more later, if you're still hungry.” Tell your children that fruits and vegetables will help them to be healthy and strong, and not connect them with size or weight loss. For many, this is a new perspective. Growing up I often heard the phrase, “You need to finish the food on your plate. There are starving children in the world who would be grateful for that food.” I even catch myself saying that at times. Why not just put less on their plate to begin with? By clearing our plates, we train our minds to ignore our bodily cues. We lose the ability to recognize the “full” sensation and eat based on emotion, rather than with the purpose of fueling and providing nutrients.
Dr. Ronald Feinstein, an adolescent medicine specialist at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New York said, "We need to focus on healthy lifestyle, and parents need to lead by example.” This includes appropriate meal planning and having healthy food available. "Set an example and avoid putting kids in a position where they have to make poor choices." (Source: Webmd.com)
It can be hard to find just the right words and ways to teach this message. I don't want my children to feel I'm nagging, or keeping them from “enjoying” life. Leading by example is the most powerful way to influence your children.
I've found some creative ways to start and continue our children on a healthy path. I plan to share my ideas in future weeks, so keep following this blog.