Paired with our expertise, the team at Jumo Health shared that encouraging a healthy lifestyle is essential for the growth and development of our youth. When we teach our kids self-care practices, they are likely to maintain these practices in order to evolve and thrive from adolescents into healthy adults. Self-care does not just pertain to physical health but it includes mental health as well. While childhood obesity and mental illness are not always mutually exclusive, they are commonly diagnosed as a result of the other.
Nearly 1 in 5 school age children and young people (aged 6 to 19 years) in the United States has obesity. Children who suffer from obesity are teased more than their peers of healthy weight, and therefore are more likely to suffer from social isolation, depression and lower self-esteem. However, there are ways in which we can encourage our children to take care of their body and their mind. Here are three self-care practices to start incorporating into our everyday lives:
Power a Healthy Mindset with Knowledge
According to Sarah Katula, an Advanced Psychiatric Nurse, conversations about the mental health of another person should begin with a casual chat. This facilitates the opportunity for a loved one or friend to point out a noticed behavior without accusation. In the particular scenario of childhood obesity, this is a conversation that will likely be started by a parent who notices a change in their child. Coping with any diagnosis can be challenging, and growing up diagnosed with obesity has its own particular set of challenges.
Get Out and Get Moving
It goes without saying that physical exercise will work wonders for your health both physically and mentally. Introducing children to a regular routine that includes exercise will likely translate into an active adulthood. It is suggested that children engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Promoting physical activity is done by:
- Reducing sedentary time (e.g., watching television, playing computer video games or talking on the phone)
- Making physical activities fun for children and adolescents
- Parents should act as role models for active lifestyles and provide children with opportunities for increased physical activity
The benefits of physical activity include:
- Controlling weight
- Reducing blood pressure
- Raising HDL (“good”) cholesterol
- Reducing the risk of diabetes and certain types of cancer
- Improved psychological well-being, including gaining more self-confidence and higher self-esteem
Whether it’s joining a community soccer league, playing tag in the backyard, or going for daily walks or bike rides, your child will have positive results when becoming routinely active Finding activities that involve family and friends will facilitate a welcoming environment and eliminate any resistance. It makes the idea of exercising less about any one individual and more about bonding and enjoyment. It also demonstrates the benefits of activity through various ages, and will further enhance the point that everyone is in need of physical activity.
Find an Outlet For Expression
It can be hard for anyone to truly express their feelings, let alone a child who may not fully grasp the severity of their emotions. Finding an outlet that allows a child to be in tune with themselves, and not be expected to satisfy anyone else’s expectations can release the truest form of emotion. There are many forms that creativity can evolve into. One suggestion is to encourage your child to keep a journal. Some journaling benefits include:
- Clarifying thoughts and feelings: Sometimes you may not know how you’re truly feeling until you let it out. Writing it down will allow you to fully tap into your internal world and connect with your deepest thoughts and emotions.
- Knowing yourself better: By writing routinely you will get to know what makes you feel happy and confident. You will also become clear about situations and people and situations who are harming your healthy lifestyle — important information for your emotional well-being.
- Reducing stress: Writing about anger, sadness, and other painful emotions help to release the intensity of these feelings. By doing so you will feel calmer and better able to stay in the present.
Maintaining a healthy well-being is a lifestyle, not a one time fix. Teaching our children to face their emotions and appropriately deal with their problems is the best thing that we can do. As an added reminder, it’s never too late to incorporate these strategies as adults, either. Taking care of your mind is just as important as taking care of your body. Practicing what you preach will go a long way, especially on the road to changing how our society views these health issues.
The best way to set our children up for success is to provide them with all of the facts that they need to maintain a healthy mentality. Establishing a feeling of community and mutual understanding is the first step to avoiding isolation. There are a variety of free health resources that explain illness and diagnosis to children, families and their peers. Introducing children to age-appropriate resources will allow for them to be part of the conversation rather than feeling patronized. The more time spent educating our children, the more comfortable and confident they will be about discussing their feelings.