How Do You Raise Healthy Kids?
It’s a question I ask myself on a daily basis. Every time I make lunches, prepare snacks, plan dinner. Are my kids eating enough of the healthy stuff? Every time I say no to video games and yes to rollerblading. Are my kids active enough? Every time I encourage my kids to create, to make music, to play with play dough or paint. Are they inspired to reach for their dreams? Every time we pray together, read God’s Word, sing a worship song. Are they falling in love with Jesus?
Raising healthy kids is not an exact science. Sometimes I wish it was! Do this and they’ll turn out as healthy adults.
Raising healthy kids is an art and in my better moments, I remember that it’s a process. It’s a journey and for some reason, God chose me and their Daddy to be the tour guides. Which means that raising healthy kids looks like their parents seeking to be healthy as well.
My tendency is to focus on one thing and forget that health is not relegated to the physical or the spiritual or the emotional. Health involves the whole person. Some days, I feel like I am playing Whack-a-Mole. I have one area covered and another issue pops up.
Raising healthy kids doesn’t just happen by hoping that it will. It takes work (all the good things do!).
So what do we do about it?
In our family, we have decided to stop waiting for perfect and start by taking small steps in the right direction. In regards to food, I am working at planning meals, so that we eat more home cooked meals and less fast food/delivery. I try to make lunches every day, but don’t stress if we run out of time and the kids have to buy lunch at school. I am also working at offering healthy snack options to the kids and having “sweets” be a treat rather than a norm.
Our kids love to play outside, but it has been a hard winter. Setting a healthy example for them looks like their Daddy joining a gym and their Mommy running laps around the house. It looks like playing Just Dance on the Kinect and doing family stretches. We can’t wait for bike rides to start again!!!
Creativity abounds in our house. Discipline does not. And so, we have to work on this. This means that we have instituted chores and regular homework time, so that our kids are learning that living inspired lives is not just doing whatever you want. It is understanding that the practice and the mundane parts of life set the foundation for the excitement that comes from pursuing dreams. This looks like Daddy doing administrative work, so that he can fulfill his dreams of preaching and teaching. This looks like Mommy doing dishes and laundry before I write or create.
Spiritual health might be the most difficult aspect of health to measure. Spiritual growth depends on so many factors. Maturity. Experiences. Response to difficulties. Deeper trust in God. We can’t manufacture situations to help our children grow, but we can be faithful in growing ourselves. For us, this looks like personal devotion time. It involves listening to Christian music in the car. It includes scripture memorization. We talk about how our love for God should impact every area of our lives. Just as a day doesn’t go by without seeking to be healthy physically, a day doesn’t go by without seeking to be healthy spiritually. It is as normal to us as breathing. And this isn’t just because we are a pastor’s family. It is because we are a Christian family.
In sharing all of this, I want to be clear about something. I firmly believe that raising healthy kids will look different for every family. Too often we can feel the pressure to look like another family instead of seeking to be the family that God has made us to be. We are working on eating more fruits and vegetables, but our family will never be vegetarian. We have workout plans, but I don’t see any marathons in our future (not ruling out the kiddos though!). We have passions and dreams, but they are ministry driven, not financially driven. And though our relationships with God are our highest priority, we all have a lot of growing to do in this area.
Raising healthy kids is a journey, but I am thankful for the one we are on. I’m grateful for grace along the way and the reality that seeking health isn’t about perfection, but about pursuing it.