Empower Your Kids continued...
"Ask the kids what are some things they want to do to be healthy," suggests Stephanie Walsh, MD, medical director of child wellness at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Let them pick out fruits and vegetables at the grocery store or help plan the dinner menu. Have them choose which sports to play or which exercise classes to sign up for.
"Let them decide," says Walsh. "If they think of it, they're much more likely to do it -- because nobody likes to be told what to do."
When talking about nutrition, explain that healthy foods make for a strong body and will help you be smarter and do better in school. Kids at this age respond to that competitive edge, says Krieger.
A Family Affair
While you want to help them learn to make healthy choices, as a parent, you still have control. Even though kids come home and choose their own after-school snack, they can't eat cookies every day if there aren't any in the pantry. Stock the fridge and kitchen with healthy foods like low-fat yogurt, cut-up veggies and hummus, and whole-grain mini-pitas and low-fat cheese and let them have their choice.
Make household rules about how much TV and video game use is allowed and make everyone, including parents, stick to it. Kids at every age learn from what their parents do, as much as what they say. The whole family will benefit when you make healthy eating and an active lifestyle a family affair.
"The families that succeed are the ones where everyone in the family is doing it together," says Krieger. "You can't have a parent watching TV while a kid is out riding his bike."
Stay on Message
As kids get older, it gets harder to just talk about healthy eating and staying active if they start to worry more about how much they weigh and what size clothes they wear.
"You want to always stick with the message: You need to be as healthy as you can be no matter what and value your body no matter what," says Marlene Schwartz, PhD, deputy director of the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.