Today is my youngest son’s last day of sixth grade. One of the things on my mind (and the minds of many parents) is how to keep him active and engaged during the summer ahead. Perfect timing for guest blogger Heidi Kleine’s post on leaving a legacy of fitness for your children!
As I faced another milestone moment this spring, my oldest daughter graduating from college, I have been reflecting again on legacy. I believe that it is innately human to want to leave a mark on the world. As a parent, when our experiences give us wisdom and insight, we want to share this knowledge to help our children avoid a few bumps in the road. It is challenging to know we can only share so much with our them. Much of what they will know, they have to learn through their own experiences. Four years ago, when this child left for college, I made a major change in my life. For the first time, I made my health my top priority. I am attending this graduation 100 pounds lighter and infinitely stronger physically, mentally and spiritually than I was at her high school graduation four years ago.
In my career as a faith formation professional, we often hear the statement “faith is caught, not taught.” I personally think it’s a little of both, but the idea is our children are more likely to follow in our footsteps than to act on our words. From a fitness perspective, I was diligent in making sure that my daughters were active. Each played a sport or danced. I forked out the money for the activities, schlepped them to and from practices, games and performances; but never allowed my fitness needs to take the same resources. I taught them their needs were more important than mine and sadly set the example that when they become parents, this is how it should be. I believe if you want to pass a legacy of valuing health on to your children, the most important thing you can do is live it with them.
First, make you own needs a priority and be open about it. Carve out the time that you will spend on your own fitness and make it non-negotiable. Whether that means getting up earlier in the morning, enlisting the help of your spouse or friends or just changing up your day, get a little movement into your daily schedule and model the expectation for your children.
Second, participate with your children as much as possible. Try to find activities for them that have a place for you. Can you be a coach or helper? Are there active family activities that you would all enjoy? I remember my daughter calling me “the cool mom” at a trampoline venue because I was willing to get involved and jump with her and her friends. Whenever possible, join in. Challenge your children to participate in active events with you. Is there a 5K or longer run or walk that you can do together? If you find a fundraising walk for a charity that shares your families interests or values, you get the double benefit of a healthy activity and modeling service as well.
Third, clean up your family’s diet. Regardless of whether you or anyone in your family needs to lose weight, take some time to look at the foods you are eating. Is your family getting the daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables? How much sugar and processed food are making their way into your children? Where can you start making the little changes that will make a long term difference? Educate yourself about the quality of your food and decide where can you start making the little changes that will make a long term difference?
Remember to stay positive throughout. Your children will grow up loving a healthy lifestyle if that is what they have loved sharing with you. Focus on your own health and wellness and bring them along for the ride.
Want more on family fitness? Check out this post Keeping Kids Physically Fit Takes Parental Commitment