Over the summer, a couple of wellness colleagues and I had the opportunity to speak to about 450 5-17 year olds about their health and wellness. As I spoke to them I asked them some questions and they gave me some interesting insights…
I asked the group, on a scale of 1-10, how they rated the importance of their health. A good portion of the group said, 7 out of 10 or above. I thought this was an encouraging start. It meant that most of the kids appreciated the importance of having good health.
Then I asked them if they could remember their health week at school. On average, roughly only two hands in every 50 pupils went up.
I then asked if they had other times when they’d learnt about health at school and one hand in 50 went up.
Should we blame the school system for the lack of health education in children?
I said to the children, “It’s interesting that many so many of rated the importance of health at a 7 out of 10 or above, yet in 12 years of school the topic was given no more than a week’s attention.”
Clearly school can do more, but I don’t think it’s entirely fair to blame just the school.
Society, and parents, have a huge role to play in the health and wellness of their children. Teenagers are going to be influenced by what they see in the media about food, drink, exercise and body image. Meanwhile, parents have an opportunity too.
What are the obstacles that stop parents talking about health
Each week, as I gave my talks over 6-weeks, I adapted the content, so I could understand the group more and then used the feedback to enhance the talk the next week.
I asked the last group whose parents had talked with them about their health. A couple of hands shot up. I was happy to see that at least 2 parents out of 56 had actively spoken with their kids about their well-being. But I wondered about the other 54… why might they not have spoken to their children about their health?
There may be many reasons why parents haven’t spoken to their children (or the kids have forgotten), but I feel the answer may lay in what parents know about health, fitness and well-being in general. I believe if parents knew what to say to help their children, that most would be more than willing to share, lead or apply that beneficial knowledge.
Most parents with 15-17 year old children will now be in their 40’s. That means they hit teenage themselves by the mid-eighties.
Think back to that time…
Growing up in the UK, back in the 80’s, we had 4 TV channels and 4 Radio stations… maybe a local BBC station or an independent station if we were lucky. Also, at that time well-being information was pretty much limited to what the doctor told you. Outside of that, the options were pretty much limited to the gym instructor or what a book publisher deemed marketable with best-seller potential.
Growing up at that time meant that our parents were limited by what they could know, apply or share with us. But the problem doesn’t end there…
back in the 70’s, there were also a number of products that weren’t perhaps the most “honestly advertised”. And those ads, still have an impact on the minds of people who saw them and believed what they were told.
Because we had limits on what we could investigate parents simply didn’t know any better and a lot of inaccurate information from dishonest advertisements were passed on to the next generation.
The current generation’s opportunity to be healthy
While the 20th century was about limitations, the 21st century is turning out to be very different. NOW its all about “information”.
When it comes to health we’re no longer restricted to the doctor’s advice, the local gym or what a publisher deems marketable. Today, we can find pretty much anything we want, whenever we want, wherever we are. We can get a massage therapist, a personal trainer and a nutritionist in every town and most villages. We can also be educated about our well-being by their knowledge.
We can go to a gym or hire a personal trainer who has more knowledge available to them than ever before. We can also buy an at home workout DVD, or join in with a workout on Youtube or one that’s being live streamed. You can skype with a nutritionist, buy online programmes, join Facebook groups, download free ebooks, buy any book from Amazon, or get a plethora of magazines. You can also Google whatever is on your mind.
There’s a whole new generation now growing up totally used to getting everything on demand and a huge percentage of it all for free. What that means is this generation has a fantastic opportunity!
Today, the problem isn’t so much about information… it’s about finding what’s relevant to the individual and helping them build their knowledge and awareness so they can be healthy.
This is why we developed Questly. It’s a place where people can go to find out more about their health. You can take a quick test to discover your current level of health, then go on a quest. Here you get asked questions that help you clearly see what you know and don’t know. We then help you fill the gaps. People can also share their ideas with others. What this means is that everyones health can improve. Higher levels of health can be found and maintained naturally.
So, today, while parents may not have grown up with all the answers, the answers are now available. With access to so much information, this generation has a great opportunity to be healthy.
A parents opportunity to encourage good health
Through TotalWellnessClub I have access to a huge number of wellness professionals. These are nutritionists, therapists, fitness trainers and gym owners, many of these professionals are parents.
So, I put a put a question out to them and asked them, as wellness professionals, “What are the gems of wisdom you are sharing at home with your kids about health?”
Below is a selection of what they said. I hope you find their ideas useful.
I’ll get us started: One gem I shared at home is how to read the ingredients on the back of packets. It started with the basics, like the order of the ingredients tells you which ingredients have the highest quantity. A general rule is that if sugar is in the top 3 ingredients we would probably not buy that. Also, if there is an ingredient that you’ve not heard of or you can’t say it, don’t buy it. We’d also avoid monosodium glutamates, which have about 50 different names because they were created to trick our bodies into wanting more food to eat when we’re not hungry! It’s not about trying to get your kids to learn all this in one go. It’s about them seeing you make a conscious decision about food and sharing your process with them. They’ll absorb the idea over time.
Here’s what Samantha Rock Cooper said: “Our son is 4, but he helps grow food in the garden and to cook our meals and treats and we explain everything along the way. We’re leading by example. We’ve just started probiotics so he watches YouTube to learn about gut health as well as other body functions on there and in books. He gives Reiki too, as I do it, and joins his Dad for yoga (and has some fab kids yoga cards). We do lots of outdoors walks, play too.”
Edward Ley said: “We try to lead by example, but also to not say no to anything, but rather have them connect their actions to their consequence. Loss of temper, crying, bad sleep, skin complaints, constipation, tiredness, illness, stomach cramps… We just help them connect the “what” with the “why”. It’s so easy as health pros to give our children rules and as a result it’s easy to create life-long resistance. So, we aim for complete freedom as well self-awareness.
Rachel Dobbie said: “My daughter has just finished her first year at University, and got a bit stressed. So we sat down together and I said “there is always another way” she asked me what I meant, and I explained, that when we feel tired or stressed we can’t think straight, and things feel much bigger, so, just say to yourself there is always another way, and let it rest for a while. Go do something else and a new idea usually pops up!”
Caroline Metz said: “I’ve got 2 teenage boys, it’s been a long road and still a work in progress! Water is a biggie, I won’t compromise on this – drinking more water is something all kids can do for their long-term health. We never have alternatives in the house, no fizzy drinks, occasional juice, same with biscuits etc. If you buy stuff and have it around, expect them to eat it, so you choose. I believe good habits start young.”
Hilda Kalap: said: “I give my children a massage every day and talk about balancing energies in the body. They know about the Eden Energy Medicine daily energy routine and see me do this to balance energies. They also copy me meditating as they see me do it every day and know it’s for calming the mind.”
Simone Moorman said: “I involve the kids in the process. I have found a child is more likely to eat if they are taking responsibility in the process i.e. making it. Think back to when you were a child… one thing I remember most you couldn’t wait to grow up. If kids feel more independent while they are eating healthy you are creating healthy connections the emotional connections we create are what help habits stick. This also works with involving them in grocery shopping. Make kids their own little list with items they are responsible for getting.”
If there are things you are sharing with your kids, please feel free to add them below. When we all share, we can all grow!
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