By Virginia Hrywnak, DO- Deputy Executive Director of Healthy Learning Paths, imperfect parent of 2 school-aged daughters, family physician and avid reader, hiker and weed-puller
“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” Anne Frank
As a mom, I spend a lot of time trying to help my own kids make wise, healthy choices. I try to empower my 2 daughters to make healthy choices even when I’m not with them. For the first 5 years of my career I was privileged to deliver babies as part of my full-spectrum family medicine practice. Each of those deliveries were unique, some were truly terrifying, all were amazing miracles. I’ve often thought back to those days when I’m trying to stay calm while convincing my 10 year-old to spend more than 5 minutes doing her homework, or when encouraging my 6 year old to eat her vegetables. Because time is fleeting. From the birth of our kids to age 18 is only 18 years or 936 weeks or 6,570 days. And we don’t get a crystal ball to catch even a brief glimpse of them as adults. We can just do our best, every day, in every way. There are many wise, witty statements about parenting; there are also hundreds of books, articles, blogs and websites devoted to helping people be better parents. But just like the first time you were handed your newborn, or joined with your adopted child, or foster child, or step-child you went from NOT being that child’s parent, to BEING THE PARENT. What a huge leap! We take lessons to learn to drive, swim with scuba gear or fly a plane. But no lessons or manual is required to be a parent. So we try our best to set them up for success in health, learning and life.
Success in health starts with healthy eating, enough sleep, play time and social support. Have your kids wash their hands, before eating, when getting home, after playing. Try eating a variety of fruits, veggies, proteins and complex carbohydrates every day. Have a consistent bedtime routine and stick with it. Talk with them about not smoking, drinking alcohol or trying drugs. Use the appropriate booster seats, helmets, safety gear. Teach them how to swim. Play outside every day.
Talk with your kids about HOW and WHY to be a good friend and model those behaviors in your interactions with others. Being a good listener, being empathetic, kind and caring are skills that should be taught, just like learning how to tie our shoes or ride a bike.
Learning starts with reading, writing and math right? But it also includes developing a love of learning. Make learning fun, check out your local library, have a designated place to study and start the school year off with a consistent routine. Have concerns? Touch base with your child’s teacher early and often. Stay involved.
Now let’s imagine if as parents, we did get to have that fleeting glimpse of our now 18 year old child in that mythical crystal ball! What picture would you want to see? Let’s make “Healthy the New Happy for Kids” where being well and learning well is part of every kids future.