Our kids don’t miss a trick – they watch everything we do.
Children learn more from what we do than from what we say. We’d like to believe that is not true. We’d like to convince ourselves that our words matter more than our actions. It would be much easier to live by the adage, “do as I say, not as I do.”
But it doesn’t really work that way. You know that, right?
Don’t get me wrong. Effectively communicating with our kids is what my life’s work is all about. I believe in teaching them and coaching them through their life experiences. It is a critical role of the conscious parent.
But it is equally as important for us to spend time modeling how to live healthy, fulfilling lives.
Here’s the best part. The best way to teach others how to take good care of themselves and their health – be they children or adults — is to take care of yourself!
When you pay attention to yourself and your health, you teach your kids to do the same. A healthy blending of parent self-care, mixed with the typical challenges of managing family life, is a sure-fire recipe for success — for everyone!
“But I don’t have the time!” You may cry. “My kids need me. I can’t take time away from them for myself.” Really?
Kids with ADD/ADHD need to learn to take care of themselves. It is arguably more important for them than for typical kids. For starters, exercise and nutrition are proven support structures for ADHD. Beyond that, ADHD requires conscious self-management. When we model conscious choices and self-care, we are teaching our kids to do the same.
In other words, if your kids see you making exercise a priority, or choosing to eat fresh food instead of constantly eating out of a box, they will see that as habits to emulate.
A number of years ago, my husband and I were modeling excuses instead of health. We still had 3 small children (and hadn’t seen the inside of a gym in nearly a decade). Rather than teaching our children about the value of exercise, we were sloths, ourselves. When we took them to the playground so that they could run around while, we sat. We were… sedentary. We joked that we were fat and happy. Yeah, right.
The truth is that we moaned about our lack of energy and time. We complained that we were out of shape. And we kept doing the same thing. I suppose we hoped that we would magically get different results because we wanted that to be true.
It wasn’t true. Something had to change, and we had to be the ones to change it. I’m not sure what inspired us, but we decided the time had come to get back into shape. A novel fundraiser caught our attention — a challenge event called the Ovarian Cycle – and we each committed to it.
The Ovarian Cycle was a training event that culminated in a major fundraiser for Ovarian cancer research. It marked an enormous change for our entire family. It started us on the road to becoming healthier adults, and inspired us to raise healthy kids. And it changed our self-concepts from that of couch-potatoes to athletic types (or, at least physically active).
Despite the years of ballet, softball, basketball, skating, soccer, T-ball, karate, etc. that we enrolled our children in when they were young, our children’s sense of themselves as athletes developed with ours. Everything changed when my husband and I said “yes” to getting healthy.
Getting healthy is a lifetime change, not a temporary fix. Simply put, it’s about what we eat, and how we move. I still remember the fundamental suggestions I learned with a diet program I subscribed to in my mid-twenties. The program taught me how to eat healthily, and I still use the lessons today:
- Shop the outside aisles of the grocery store
- Eat a Citrus fruit every day
- Make dates for movement instead of socializing around food
- Drink plenty of water
- Pay attention to portion control
Seriously, this is not really rocket science. It’s basic healthy living. Our challenge is to get ourselves to do what we know we should be doing. Our challenge is to eat less (or better), and move more.
In the land of ADHD, it’s extremely difficult to get our selves motivated. So if the message of getting healthy appeals to you, but you can’t find a way to do it for yourself, then do it for your kids! When they see you doing it – when they see you benefitting from it — they will learn habits that they can begin to try for themselves.
You’re kids watching you every day. Are you ready to give them something worth watching! What better gift can you offer than the gift of learning HOW to live a healthy life?