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Parents are Integral in Children's Health

Childhood obesity has risen dramatically since the 1960s, according to government statistics, with as many as 30% of children meeting the definition of obese. Recent studies even show that parents underestimate their child's own weight problems, especially low-income parents.

Many adults feel miserable about their weight. In most cases their struggles with food began in childhood. In the past 20 years, obesity among 6 to 11 year-old children has increased 54%! There are many health risks associated with obesity. In addition to heart disease, obesity is associated with psychological stress and social rejection that can cause a child much misery in the years ahead. The good news is overweight children are not doomed to have weight problems as adults. Parents can help their children avoid a weight problem by following some simple guidelines listed below:

Establishing Good Eating Habits in Children
Create a good feeding relationship between parents and children to minimize future problems. Parents provide the food and select the meal time and the child chooses how much to eat. It's a process that relies on the child's internal cues of hunger, appetite and satiety to guide the feeding process.

Never put your child on a low calorie, deprivation diet. By restricting calories a growing child needs, you interfere with the natural growth process. Children who under eat have less energy and slower rates of maturation. This does not mean the calories should be filled with high fat foods. It's important that you lower the dietary fat, but still maintain calories by increasing carbohydrates such as: fruits, vegetables, cereals, breads, pasta, potatoes.

Children who eat meals do better nutritionally and are better at liking and managing a variety of foods than children who merely snack. Children should not be forced to join the clean plate club or eat foods they hate. Its important that children come to the table hungry, learn how to control hunger and wait for their meal to be served.

Have family meals. Set a good example by eating a wide variety of foods and providing a pleasant eating environment. Children need to see that parents value a family mealtime. Get your child involved in menu plans and food preparation. Make it something fun that can be done together. Teach your child to eat slowly which will allow them to thoroughly taste and enjoy their food and recognize the feeling of fullness.

It's important to educate children to exercise for health and to achieve some advertising ideal. Emphasize the need for parents to let children find their natural body weight, which can vary as they grow. Don't overreact if your child gains a few pounds, because some kids naturally gain a little weight, for instance, right before the onset of puberty or a growth spurt. Respecting the child's developmental stages will help them learn about themselves. To help prevent excessive weight gain and obesity before it develops, keep exercise enjoyable.

Parents who live sedentary lifestyles may have a hard time motivating their children to stay fit. Try to make exercise a part of your family life by finding fun fitness activities that the whole family can do together, such as swimming, cycling, canoeing, tennis, nature hikes, or walks with the family dog.

Maintain a positive attitude toward exercise and physical activity - be careful not to treat it as a punishment or a chore.

Encourage your child to come up with creative suggestions for family fitness activities; they will be more likely to enjoy an activity if they have a role in planning it.

Parents who attend regular fitness classes or work out at a gym may find it fairly easy to be good fitness role models. There are plenty of fitness programs at community centres and reputable health clubs that offer children the opportunity to pursue other kinds of physical activities besides sports. Light resistance training may help children develop better proprioception and coordination in joints and muscles.

Parents should try to remain openminded about children's sports. For example, it's possible that your child may enjoy a sports activity that is not offered at her school or that is not offered for girls. If your child wants to try football or ice hockey, help her find a local league or talk to school officials about starting up a new team. Boys may prefer figure skating or ballet. Let your kids know that no matter which sport they choose, they have your support.

Even if your child never belongs to a sports team, there are many other areas of their life where they can learn important skills like teamwork, competition, and cooperation. Clubs, school and volunteer activities, band or music lessons, acting or debating groups, and many other activities teach children to work and get along with others.

Remember, that although you should share your interests with your child, it's never a good idea to force your child into an activity just because you once excelled in it. Many children may worry that they won't be able to measure up to the success their parents once enjoyed playing a particular sport. Your child needs to know that although you would love to share your love of softball or basketball with them, it would be equally acceptable if they would rather play golf or tennis, or take up gymnastics or karate.

Finally, emphasize the importance of having both a healthy mind and a healthy body, and make it clear to your child that physical activity is an integral part of daily life. By creating a supportive environment, acting as a positive role model, and providing your child with a wide range of fitness choices, you can help your child develop good habits that will last a lifetime.

Reference Source 48,50,71

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