(Here is a guest post from reader, parent, and yoga instructor Sarah Stevenson. Learn more about her below.)
As a single mother of a strapping 11-year-old boy I would like to think I know a thing or two about raising a happy, healthy child. Exercise has been important to me my whole life. I asked my parents for a gym membership on my 16th birthday and have been working out in some way, shape or form since then. In turn, my son has tagged along on hikes, bike rides and swims his whole life. (Thank goodness for jogger strollers!) You won’t catch my boy and me sitting at home glued to the TV or playing video games. A typical Saturday for us starts with yoga at the beach, followed by a soccer game, a bike ride to lunch, topped off with a no-holds-barred laser tag challenge. My son often invites friends over to play after school and they’re never able to keep up with him. It is really quite sad but most of his friends will fake a headache so they can come inside and watch TV. My boy gets so frustrated that his friends neither have the energy or passion for exercise that he does.
It’s estimated that in the United States, about 22 million children under age 5 are overweight and 30 percent of children are obese. With numbers like these, I would venture to guess that my son is the minority when it comes to healthy lifestyles. Testament to this is the fact that I have recently had to approach the principal at his school to get them to follow through with the required physical education standards set by the California Department of Education: “emphasis upon the physical activities for the pupils that may be conducive to health and vigor of body and mind, for a total period of time not less than 200 minutes each ten schooldays, exclusive of recess and the lunch period” (EC Section 51210 [g]). My son and his classmates reported to me that they were lucky if they got 20 minutes of exercise the whole week. It turns out that the school was signing off that they were fulfilling the requirements even though they weren’t even coming close! Why on earth is this happening? More importantly, what are we going to do about it? It is our job to fight for our children’s health and happiness and if we don’t start doing it now those overweight and obesity numbers will rise.
When I was in elementary school I was blessed with an amazing 3rd grade teacher. Her name was Ms. Blacha. She was tall and beautiful. She was fun and creative. All the children loved her and I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. She took us out to exercise every single day. She made up fun, crazy games that sent us home with a smile and hungry tummies. I believe that she is the reason I loved exercise my whole life. She is probably a big reason why I am a yoga instructor today. Her influence definitely shows up in my themed classes with titles like Hippy Yoga, Goddess Yoga and Totally 80’s Yoga.
So I think it’s time for us as parents to help the Ms. Blachas of the world out. Be that example to your child. Be fun, adventurous and healthy. Get involved in the P.E. program at your child’s school. It’s likely that his/her teacher has very little paid help due to recent budget cuts. Teachers depend heavily on parent support to make it through the school year. I volunteered the first 4 years of my son’s elementary education, 2 days a week teaching yoga to 60 kids at a time. At that point in time they were–or rather I–was fulfilling the 200 minutes physical education requirement. This is the first year I haven’t been able to volunteer and sure enough the first year my son is rarely getting P.E. You don’t have to be a certified yoga instructor to be a P.E. volunteer. You just need to be a parent with a little free time and a youthful creative attitude.
It’s high time we take our children’s health seriously. How we show up for our children today will effect who they will grow up to be tomorrow. Lead by example so you can be a “Do as I do” kind of parent.
How do you model healthy living to your kids?
image: Ed Yourdon on Flickr under CC
Sarah Stevenson, a.k.a., The Tini Yogini, is a Certified Yoga Instructor in Southern California. She has a degree in Behavioral Psychology and teaches not only yoga classes but also life affirming workshops. She also writes for the fitness website and online shop, Beachbody.