Whether you’re concerned that your child is spending too much time in front of a screen and not enough time exercising, or is eating too much fast food and snacks, ultimately, you may be concerned that your child is on a path to obesity.
Childhood obesity is a serious problem in our country, with serious consequences. The Mayo Clinic reports, “Childhood obesity is particularly troubling because the extra pounds often start children on the path to health problems that were once confined to adults, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.”
And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity is on the rise. In 1980, 7% of children in the United States were obese, as were 5% of adolescents. In 2010, that statistic jumped to 18% of children and 18% of adolescents being obese. That’s a staggering increase.
But the first step to a healthier lifestyle is identifying the problem, so you’re already off to a good start.
The CDC also recognizes that parents aren’t the only ones who play a role in their children’s health and diet. Children and adolescents learn their eating and exercise habits from “families, communities, schools, child care settings, medical care providers, faith-based institutions, government agencies, the media, and the food and beverage industries and entertainment industries.” All of these groups contribute to your children’s decision making and influence the choices they make.
So what can you do as a parent? Obviously you have little say in the media and major industries, but you can get involved where you live:
- Promote a healthier lifestyle at home. A good strategy for improving your child’s health is to work on the diet and exercise routines of your entire family. By working alongside your child to eat healthier and exercise more, you’ll be setting a good example and supporting your child in what can be a very sensitive and difficult subject. Working as a family can also encourage your children to see fitness as a lifelong pursuit and continue their healthy practices throughout their lives.
- Reach out to your children’s school at PTA meetings and other public forums. Find out what the school is already doing to combat childhood obesity, and let the teachers and administrators know of any concerns you have. You may be able to create a new committee to find ways to promote healthy eating and exercise into the school day.
- Get your church or community group involved. Voice your concerns about the problem of childhood obesity and ask for their help. Whether you help your group develop a Saturday kickball league, a weekend seminar on healthy nutrition, or a pledge kids can take to get 60 minutes of exercise a day, you’ll be helping kids to see that nutrition and exercise are important aspects of their lives.
First Lady Michelle Obama launched the “Lets Move!” initiative as part of her goal to solve the problem of childhood obesity. The website, www.letsmove.gov, offers healthy eating resources for families, schools, and communities, as well as suggested guidelines and programs for increasing physical activity and promoting healthier lifestyles. Sign up to participate in the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA+) challenge, which helps kids and adults stay on track and offers rewards for doing so.
Just remember, as your child works to obtain a healthier weight, your love and support are crucial ingredients. Communication is important, but you need to voice your concerns in a constructive manner so your child doesn’t feel insulted or attacked. Work together with your child and you’ll be building bonds and healthy habits to last a lifetime.
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