30 Positive Lifestyle Habits For Healthier, Happier Children.
Posted by: Sue Atkins
I was sent this FABULOUS piece from James Wittering a divorced dad of 2 boys on Twitter. It’s one of the reasons I love Twitter so much as it connects me to wonderful people writing wonderful things.
I just agree with this whole mind set and positivity and couldn’t put it better myself.
I think James’s 2 boys are really lucky to have a Dad with such an enthusiastic, deep and profound sense of what makes a happy, healthy, resilient child.
Grab a cup of coffee and sit back and ponder how you could incorporate some of these simple ideas into your family life.
Thanks James – you’re an inspiration.
Pointing our kids in the right direction and hoping they learn to make good choices once they’ve flown the nest is a journey with one or two challenges, to say the least. In this world of distracting tech, consumer choice overload, too may sedentary choices, a food and drink industry who don’t give two hoots about the poor messages they’re pumping into tiny minds and politicians and religious leaders who choose conflict over communication (great role modelling for the next generation guys!) it’s hard to get your ethos heard by your children over all the noise. Heres’s a few simple ideas that might help:
1. Let Them Lead The Way
So you’re out for a walk, enjoying the scenery, at one with nature, leading your family on an outbound adventure. All good so far. But you can make it better. Put them up front, let them choose the way. Tell them to go ahead and scout, decide the path. Fork in the road? Let them choose (even if you know it’s a dead end). Big hill doesn’t look so inviting? Tough, they’re leading the pack today (and you’ll get fitter while you’re at it). Giving your kids a bit of freedom and responsibility on days out makes things even more memorable for them and gives them an insight into decision making in all it’s muddy glory!
Let them choose (even if you know it’s a dead end)
2. Reducing Screen Time (disconnect from tech)
Screens are ubiquitous. They hover around us in seductive wait of our short attention spans. There’s a reason Steve Jobs didn’t let his kids play with iPads. I introduced ‘Zero screen time’ into our days (and even our weekends) and disconnecting from tech is a wonderful way of reconnecting with your family time. Our kids will be having electronic content rammed into them for the rest of their lives so give them the knowledge that unplugging is a happy place to be now, while they’re still sponges. We go for ‘no screens’ in the morning before school, before jobs have been done, and for set hours over the weekend. We agree these times together so we’re all on the same page. You’ll be amazed at how their imaginations soar and your quality time improves.
3. Introduce Reading Time (The gift voucher for the soul)
As well as disconnecting from tech, you should try helping them to reconnect with their imagination. Nothing comes close to reading; losing yourself in a different world. Kids will totally get it too. Don’t think their TV and video game addled minds won’t be able to learn the value of a book, they will. We’ve all heard ‘Nah, books are boring, I want my FIFA’ but if FIFA time is FIFA time and reading time is READING time, they’ll get it. I actually keep it as book time, no kindles or reading apps, nothing with distraction or choice. Think of it as a gift voucher for the soul; I love getting an Amazon voucher because I know I can’t spend it on anything other than something I want, unlike cash which would just go on groceries or a haircut. Book time leaves everyone with a single choice – guilt free reading. We do it for an hour, and we ALL do it. Adults too. You know the drill, all screens off, no phones etc. We say an hour but if it drifts on, then so be it…
Book time leaves everyone with a single choice – guilt free reading
4. Acknowledge & Appreciate Them
“Children should be seen and not heard” said some poe faced Victorian moron. Give a child room to grow in stature by letting them have a voice. Watch their confidence grow as they step up to their platform and tell you what they think about something, knowing that you’ll listen and nod and appreciate their input. Big family decisions coming up? Wondering where to go on holiday? Trying to choose a new colour for the kitchen? Ask the kids. It’s not like they might surprise you, they almost certainly will; regularly if you give them the opportunity. And they’ll go forwards confidently and bravely as they grow up rather than meek and unheard.
It’s not like they might surprise you, they almost certainly will
5. Anti-Fairy Tales
I love this. I think being scared in a safe environment is OK, it’s why roller coasters are one of the best things on the planet. Remember hiding behind the sofa when the Daleks came on the TV? Remember sneaking downstairs and catching a glimpse of an 18 certificate horror film and not sleeping for a week? Almost a right of passage. There’s evidence that too many ‘happy endings’ in children’s stories creates an expectation in the child that things always work out. As we know, this isn’t the case in real life and if a child understands that sometimes ‘good’ loses then they are better prepared when they face real disappointments in their day to day lives. Stories that end ambiguously or without resolution can also throw up great discussion topics for you and your kids.
if a child understands that sometimes ‘good’ loses then they are better prepared when they face real disappointments in their day to day lives
6. Small Jobs For Growing Responsibility
As kids get older we often start to think about giving them small tasks to earn or supplement their pocket money so they can start to understand about the importance of work and the value of money. But it’s also important to guide them in the ways of being a team player, a useful and integral part of a pack that can contribute helpfully for the good of everyone and not just for their own personal gain. Giving them small tasks that are ‘theirs’ and encouraging ownership of those tasks can help them to understand the importance of mucking in and to boost their sense of self worth as they become a contributor to the day to day running of the family environment.
Why not try…
If you give them a small task such as taking out the recycling every week then leave them with the task but let them plan when they do it or the best route to the bin or the frequency. Give them freedom and praise them when they figure out better ways of doing things. It starts with the little things.
Give them freedom and praise them when they figure out better ways of doing things
7. Try Everything (go beyond the fads to find the passions)
The fads and trends are upon us in a flash, stripping our wallets with good intentions only to be out the door the following week, replaced by the ‘next thing’. This is old ground and every parent navigates this conundrum. Which fads do we support? How do we deal with concepts like ‘giving up too soon’ or kids seemingly not appreciating the cost of the fad when it’s shunned just a few weeks after the new violin has sucked up the summer holiday savings? Think big, explore every way of trying everything. Kids are only fickle because they’re falling into a world full of so much stuff to do that they naturally want to do everything that looks even remotely exciting. This is what life is about so go with it ALL. Let them give up if they want; when they find their passions, you’ll know. And if you let them, they’ll be magnificent at them.
You don’t need to buy a new violin; just talk to their music teacher or school, reach out on social media or to friends or family. Somebody will most likely have a violin you could borrow on a short term loan until they figure out if it’s for them or not. If they want an electric guitar, start with a £20 ukulele and see if it sparks anything. Pretty much anything can be borrowed or supplied in a beginners class. It’s your TIME and your willingness to let them try everything that they need. Go with it. All of it…
Let them give up if they want; when they find their passions, you’ll know. And if you let them, they’ll be magnificent at them
8. Don’t Focus On Fault
Always looking for someone to blame takes the emphasis away from finding a solution to a problem and creates an environment where people just make each other feel bad all the time. Doesn’t sound good does it? When things go belly up, keep vibes productive and solution based. Look for answers not scapegoats. Life is a lot of problem solving and teaching kids that turning on each other will not solve anything will help them develop strong relationships and find many more positive outcomes when life’s little challenges strike.
9. Surround Them With Positive Role Models
If you’ve cultivated your social circles (your family, your colleagues, your friends etc) so that the ones most often with you are the happy, positive, helpful ones (and if you haven’t, start now) then you need to give your kids access to these people. Your little sponges soak up your vibe, that’s why you lead by example, but they’ll also get a variety of positive influences from your grooviest friends. Don’t always keep them separate and give them access to each other so they can build relationships and learn from each other’s positive outlooks on life (with the added experience that only adults can bring to the table).
10. Move More (Not Just Exercise)
More movement isn’t more exercise. The weekly football training, the weekend match, the hour’s swimming and the PE lesson on a Wednesday is all well and good but between these things could well be endless comparative hours of sitting in class, sitting in front of the TV and sitting in front of a games console or sitting doing homework. The ‘doing’ doesn’t stack up well against the ‘sitting’ in most weekly schedules and habits. Movement is something else altogether; you’re looking for natural movements that their squirmy bodies have evolved for and you need to nurture the kind of movement in their cells that their DNA craves.
The outcome? A lifetime with less injury, bodies that grow to their full potential and carry less inflammation and propensity for serious disease. Worth it. We’re talking about walking barefoot on uneven ground, hanging from branches, swinging on ropes, squatting to do things on the floor instead of at tables. Think “What would a stone-age child do with no furniture, no shoes and plenty of activity required to acquire anything they need”? Keep them walking, climbing, swinging and exploring and avoid sitting in chairs as much as possible (yes, you too, it’s never too late).
A lifetime with less injury, bodies that grow to their full potential and carry less inflammation and propensity for serious disease. Worth it
11. Eating Together
The days can get away from us; always busy and the next thing on the schedule is waiting for no man. Work, school run, all the washing, all the homework, all the wants and needs and prep for tonights cubs/swimming/tennis/juggling club. How on Earth are we supposed to find time to actually communicate with each other? At mealtimes of course. Make them special, make them sacred. Accept no excuses (yours included), mealtimes are for sitting together, talking about your days, sharing the best bits and sharing the challenges that you may be able to help each other with. No screens, no radios, NO PHONES. Slow down, taste the food and be together for a few minutes of each day. This is a healthy habit your kids will remember and will carry on with their kids. You’re building an empire here…
Slow down, taste the food and be together for a few minutes of each day
12. From Junk To Funk
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