Kids Need Sustainable Habits Too
How are the children? Our little sponges and mockingbird cling-ons ?
A lot of kids are home these days and I was looking at my 12 year old daughter the other day and she is looking lean and strong.
When the quarantine started, I used the opportunity to teach her how to cook and make her own breakfasts like her own eggs, sausage, and even occasional gluten free pancakes etc. and get comfortable with the new gas stove.
Quarantine aside, this is a fundamental skill she will need to thrive in life. Can you get by without knowing how to make a meal? Sure can. Is it the life I want her to have? Nope, the fuck not. She will not thrive living on convenience foods and her predisposition to auto-immune issues and heredity don’t set her up to thrive on a typical American Diet either.
Over the years, I have not policed her food, but rather taught her about food, how to listen to her body and what food does to her cells when we eat the foods that have negative impacts. We still enjoy Celiac friendly desserts and she has treats like all other kids occasionally. But she has a clear understanding of eating treats as they are. She doesn't eat them mindlessly just because they taste good or a self-medicating tool for stress or sadness. They are just foods that we enjoy occasionally.
She is far from perfect, but has handled being home very well. She set up a routine for herself as soon as school was closed. She typically gets up unloads the clean dishes, loads any dirty ones without being asked most days, makes herself breakfast, cleans her mess and then gets to her schoolwork. She is not in the pantry every hour snacking or eating us out of house and home. And while our house is a snack desert, we have plentiful nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and whole foods to choose from all of which she likes and eats. She eats her breakfast, sometimes has a snack in between but usually not.
That being said, she makes her own breakfasts and most days heats up a lunch for herself which is usually leftovers from something I made. Dinners consist of all whole foods usually with meat and vegetables that she often helps me prepare. She does her school work on her own and usually gets what needs to be done earlier in the day. She logs into her classes on time by herself.
I reached out to her PE teacher to fill her in on what she is doing for movement being at home to report on an assignment, and I let her know we do daily dog walks weather permitting, bike rides, and a couple days a week she does CrossFit/lifting with either her dad or myself, and zoom karate classes twice a week. The teacher sadly let me know that most kids are spending their time at home with zero movement in front of a screen all day, day in day out and wasn’t worried about my daughter because she knew we were active with her.
As a result, she is thriving. Her body feels good, she is getting rest, her mood is level, and she is healthy. I don’t spend my days arguing with her attitude or even arguing with her in general. She does what she needs to do and allows me the space to do mine. She reads books, plays games, and is even teaching herself Spanish because she isn’t crazy about the way she is learning it virtually so found an app to teach herself. She asked my dad for books on Algebra and advanced math so she can learn ahead and be prepared for next year and the year after. I don’t have to fight with her to learn she is eager to use her brain.
The point of this post isn’t to say “look at how awesome my kid is” even though yes she is pretty awesome and easy and I won’t deny that at all. But that's not my point. She is a product of building habits as a family. We are diligent in our own habits when it comes to our own nutrition, stress response, and movement and it has carried over to her and served her well. She has been given a base of healthy nutrient dense foods and eats her vegetables and home cooked meals. She eats what we eat. I have never made her "kid friendly" meals separate from what we are eating even as a baby and toddler. That has allowed her to thrive and have a healthy gut and healthy mind.
Think about all the things you struggled with during this quarantine.
Was it food?
Did your kids have struggles in the same areas?
Take a look at your children and their habits during the quarantine.
Are these habits they can carry with them for life or during times of adversity?
Or are they habits they will fall into again and again during times of stress?
Like stress and binge eating?
Spending hours and hours in front of television and not sleeping the amount they need?
Not getting outside or moving at all?
Not knowing how to handle their stress and feelings so they are unusually moody?
And which path do YOU want them to be on?
Only YOU can answer that.
If they aren’t where you want them to be, it’s not a fail, but an opportunity to change not only you own habits but the habits of your family.
If you realize some changes need to happen and you want them to happen, don’t drown yourself in the overwhelm of all the things you see that need fixing. Start with small manageable ones. That may even mean once life is more normal again, you start adding some more sustainable things in and that’s perfectly o.k.
I have worked with clients that had the pickiest kids and were the pickiest eaters and we got them eating and liking vegetables. There are ways to get these habits going without making it painfully hard and unsustainable. It just takes consistency and commitment to wanting it.