Keep'er Fit

Gary Wallace

The child, the family and me – Part 2

In this three-part series we are looking at ways in which we can help you, your family and those closest to you can lead happy, healthy and active lifestyles.
Last week the focus was on you. The main theme was around how to become more aware of looking after yourself before helping others. We have posted a link to this article on our Facebook page.
This week we are focusing on the child. How can we better help guide our children towards leading happy and healthier lifestyles? Note I said guide, not force. 
As soon as we start forcing children into doing something we think is right for them without considering how they feel then you are on a slippery slope. 
It is a well-known and researched fact that children these days are less active and more likely to run into health problems like obesity, diabetes, depression and anxiety. The pictures below highlight this issue.
The first one is a brilliant illustration from a young child in the 70s being dragged into the house by his mum, covered in mud still wanting to play outside with his football. In contrast today’s kids have to be dragged away from their electronic devices to get them outdoors. 
I’m aware that this is a stereotypical example and thankfully some parents and kids still relate to the 70s photo. 
But before you fold your arms and says ‘That’s the problem, those kids are never away from a screen’ take a long look at the next picture. 
Are we as adults also to blame? My answer is yes and in a number of ways. 
Firstly, the picture below illustrates how we may be restricting our children’s sense of adventure and love of physical activity. Are we letting them explore, fail and learn or are we taking this process away by being over protective?
Think back to when you were a child. How far where you able to go from your house? Were there soft ground areas everywhere at play parks? How many trees did you climb? Now answer these same questions for your own child. Yes, society has changed and in most cases it’s for the better but it doesn’t mean that we should stop our kids from exploring. 
Take them off the beaten path when out on forest walks, let them climb, let the jump from a safe height and they will soon learn how to land properly. 
The best coaching you can give your child during all of this is nothing. Literally step back and supervise. 
Don’t tell them what way to play, let them figure it out for themselves. That’s the beauty of falling in love with physical activity and movement. 
Instead of thinking we know what kids want, why not ask them instead. A massive study carried out with kids who played sport asked them what they want from a coach. 
Here are the top five responses: 
1. Respect and encouragement 
2. Positive role model 
3. Clear and consistent communication 
4. Knowledge of sport 
5. Someone who listens
Now take these five results and replace the word sport with parenting or caring for young children, I think we all have a pretty solid frame work to go by. 
Each one is equally important but I think we could all improve on number 5.
Based on trying to help our children fall in love in with physical activity and help them towards leading a happy and healthy lifestyle, I have come up with the following system:
• Explore
• Challenge
• Environment
• Encourage 
• Cooperate 
If we gave our children the chance to explore in a safe and challenging environment then all we have to do is encourage them, and when the moment is right get involved and enjoy the activity with alongside them.
This will lead us nicely to our last segment of this three-part series… looking at bringing it all together as a family. 

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