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Inspiring the Ritual of Wellness for Kids

Living Wellness with Jennifer DiFrancesco

Jennifer DiFrancescoAs I look at three generations in my family–my mother, myself and my daughter–I find that proper nutrition and exercise are woven into the fabric of our family. My focus on fitness, contemplative practices such as meditation and yoga, and conscious eating are practices handed down from my mother, which I am now imparting to my daughter. It is wonderful to see this life-reaffirming information passed from one generation to the next.

The other day, I asked my 11-year old Bella for her definition of wellness. She responded, “being able to do the things you want to do.” I found this insightful for a child considering that youth rarely think of being limited physically or in any other capacity. It is not until we are confronted with a limiting illness or injury that we often start appreciating our own wellness.

Transferring healthy thoughts and actions from parent to child takes a conscious effort. Below are a few simple efforts I practice on a daily basis for the benefits of my children.

What are you drinking? One clear reason for today’s childhood obesity epidemic is the consumption of sodas and other sugary drinks – including fruit juices. Stock the fridge with healthy alternatives such as iced teas and water (try homemade fruit infused water). If you are grabbing healthy drinks, your children will follow suit.

Do you cook as a family? Cooking and gardening are great ways for children to identify with ingredients and their sources. Many schools now have gardens and classes tend to plants, watch them grow, and harvest and enjoy their bounty. Cooking also allows children to see what goes into a dish encouraging discussion about ingredients, alternatives and choices.

Is your health a priority? Schedule workouts as you would schedule an appointment. I schedule a run or yoga class after work, which often disappoints my daughter who wants to spend time with me. If I do not keep this appointment with myself, not only do I not get my exercise, but I also retract the message that “my appointment with exercise is important.” This is a hard concept to follow, yet is an indirect message your child will remember.

Do you exercise with your kids? Even better, try to incorporate an activity your kids can enjoy with you. Sign up for a 5K and train, walk or run together. Utilize your local park for shared active time. Incorporating simple activities, like parking farther away from the shopping center and explaining that it is healthy to walk, is a first step.

I came home from work the other day planning to go to yoga. Bella informed me in a very matter of fact way that, “you can only go if you take me.” This 90-minute class takes much concentration, and I was reluctant to take her, but I did. After class, the adult next to my daughter said that Bella had inspired her and enhanced her yoga practice.

It had come full circle. Bella had inspired others in wellness, and inspiration is an important step to creating habits that will remain with us for the rest of our lives.

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