Having a healthy family is all a parent really wants, but sometimes it can feel like an uphill struggle. Dealing with a fussy toddler, teaching a child about the natural world or persuading a cranky teenager to get out of bed or at least have a shower once in a while isn’t quite the dream that the parenting books sell.
However, even with a large family and a range of ages, you can have a happy and healthy family. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be perfect, accept each other for who you are and stick to one simple principle: love. If you are firm in your love for each other as a family, you will be able to overcome all sorts of different obstacles together.
Growing up now is completely different to when we parents grew up and the influences of technology are resonating throughout society. That being said, there are still a few fundamentals that remain intact. You still need to teach your children about what they eat and where food comes from, parents are still primarily responsible for socialising their children through talk and play, and you will need to set a positive example for a generally healthy lifestyle.
Here are a few tips you might like to consider.
Diversify Your Meals
Eating healthily is the foundation of any healthy lifestyle, and you should give your children plenty of opportunities to try new things. A healthy diet is made up of lots of fruits and vegetables as well as a good balance of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. A simple way to get a balance is to add as many different colours as possible.
If you have fussy eaters, presenting new foods in combination with things that are already familiar is a good idea. Try not to worry if you have a toddler who with a very limited diet, they are usually just going through a phase and will gradually incorporate new foods into their diet in their own time. Make sure that you remain relaxed while your kids eat and maintain a positive vibe. Let them play with their food and get used to the textures and tastes – they don’t need to look good while they eat, as long as they manage to get some of it into their mouth!
Eating together as a family every night is also an important way to bond over food. This is the time to socialise your children around food and teach them better table manners. Be sure to keep up gentle conversation as you eat and ask everyone how their day has gone. This will keep you in touch with each other as well as gradually learn how to use a knife and fork and other social rules like how to serve yourself and pass plates around.
Grow Your Own
So many children spend all the time in front of screens these days that finding ways to persuade them outside can be difficult. Growing your own vegetables and providing for yourselves is a great way to ensure that you have a healthy family lifestyle. Not only can you see exactly where your produce is coming from, but you can develop a good relationship with food and the natural world.
There are all kinds of fruits and veggies that you could grow with children from making cress pots with the youngest to developing more gardening skills by growing peas up canes or courgettes in the greenhouse. Growing vegetables is a perfect way to spend more time together outside and learning, especially while your children are still young. You can experiment with different plants to see what works out best and try new types of vegetables too.
The more involved and aware children are of how nature works and what they can do to help it, the better citizens they will become. Working out how best to grow vegetables or care for chickens is a brilliant way to teach them how to empathise with the needs of others and how much power they have to make things better for themselves.
Set a Great Example
As a parent, it is your job to provide a healthy role model for your family. This doesn’t mean that you need to be perfect – no-one is perfect – it just means that you should be able to demonstrate good habits like eating well and exercising regularly as well as discussing issues together.
Exercise and Play Games
Not everyone is naturally athletic but if you can get outside to exercise together once in a while, you can at least develop a healthy attitude towards sport. Playing a game together like rounders is perfect for a summer afternoon with a picnic, or you could even set up a regular event like booking a tennis court or going swimming each week. Just as gardening detracts from the sedentary lifestyle the 21st century is all about, sports are a good chance to blow off some steam, get fitter and bond as a family unit.
Another idea is to take a long family walk every now and then. Depending on the ages of your children, this might be a long afternoon chatting about their future or getting to grips with all the exams coming up, or it could be a shorter walk exploring the surroundings and playing games like tag to keep them going. However you want to play it, a walk is a good way to sneak exercise into your family routine as well as take time to get to know what’s going on. Teenagers in particular can be very secretive but, in the open air with no convenient distractions, they might be more inclined to open up.
You should also encourage your kids to find their own sports that they can play as part of a team of their age-group. Sports are the perfect way for them to build their social skills on their own, give their self-esteem a boost and promote a healthy lifestyle too. Let them try out a few different sports and teams while they are still quite young to see what they like the most. Don’t be afraid to try things that are a little outside the box either like judo, horse riding or athletics: whatever they choose, just go with it and support them all the way.
Talk to Each Other and Listen Well
As a parent, it can be difficult to remember that you still need to listen to your children – especially when what they are saying is completely ridiculous. Of course they can’t go to a late night party on a school night. Obviously eating that many sweets was a bad idea!
The thing is, that your kids don’t have the same experience as you and given how rapidly times are changing, your children are growing up in a very different world to the one you did. This means that the most important thing you can do for your children and the health of your family is to listen to them. Listen to their silly requests and daft rants and encourage them to bring all that baggage to you to unload. You can still prevent them from getting into any situations, but letting them talk about their reasons for wanting something will give you a good clue about where they are at both socially and emotionally.
Teaching your kids to share their feelings and demonstrating that you will listen to them every time will do more for creating a strong familial foundation than anything else. Plus, the more you are willing to listen, the more likely they will listen to you in return. And the younger they are when they learn this, the better they will be at opening up when they are teenagers.
Families are complex things and trying to make sure that everyone is okay all the time will exhaust you. The best thing you can do is give your children a firm familial foundation and let them know that they can always come to you when they are in need. Raising your kids to understand how to eat well, how to support themselves and how to socialise is mainly about leading by example and doing all those things yourself.
For example, if you are a smoker, you might want to have a discussion with your children about the habit and consider ways that you could quit. There are a few ways to get over an addiction and demonstrating your strength this way is a good way to show that you are a role model. You could go cold turkey, though this will take a lot of effort, or you could use an e-cigarette to gradually reduce your nicotine intake. Try https://www.ecigwizard.com/ for the things you need to start.
Setting a great example isn’t about having the perfect lifestyle or even suggesting that your children should have one. Instead, you should be aiming to have an open conversation about having a healthy lifestyle and working towards achieving your goals.