HomeHealth & BehaviorHealth & Nutrition

American Camp Association

New Year's resolution: your children's healthiest year ever!

Easy tips to keep kids active and happy.

Here's to a new year!

If only kids came with instructions, we could be perfect parents. Regrettably, there are no instructions and therefore no perfect parents. We try to do our best raising our families, but the busyness of life gets in the way. The problem rests in the fact that sometimes we do not have enough information to make the best decisions. I am a firm believer that "when you know better—you can do better."

Resolutions for a happy and healthier new year

When a baby is born, we are so excited. Counting their fingers and toes, we ask the doctor if the baby is healthy, and if we are lucky, the doctor says yes. We expect this initial pronouncement of health means that for the next 21 years our child will be well. But no one explains to us the important part that we must play, and we receive little if any specific training for the most important role of our lives. As parents, we consider just two possibilities, sickness and health—the spectrum in between is lost. We need to pay attention to the gray area.

A parent lovingly fulfills every basic need for an infant, and as the infant grows, he or she learns to do these tasks by mimicking the way of the parents. As mothers, when babies cry from hunger, we pick them up to comfort them, speak soothingly to them and feed them. It is an enjoyable time between mother and child. But some babies come to associate food as the comfort. Unless we expand upon this coping mechanism, this baby is destined to a life of emotional eating.

Choose an enjoyable activity that models for our children how to cope with daily stress.

Try walking, biking or dancing to deal with frustrations instead and include your children in this activity. Children copy what we do, not what we say.

The childhood obesity epidemic is a complex problem for society, but truly as parents we are much more concerned about what occurs within our own four walls. Many families believe that their chunky child will outgrow their baby fat, but it takes only a few extra pounds to weigh a child down. Then the child does not feel well participating in activity, so they become less active and the pounds begin to pile up. Kids are cute, but they are cruel to each other. The old saying of "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" was never farther from the truth. The words are forever etched in our children's brains and hearts, and the pain is far more debilitating than broken bones. Their spirits become broken instead. This prevents our children from becoming who they were meant to be. The vicious cycle is set because more than 8 out of 10 of these children will go on to become overweight adults, carrying with them forever all the baggage from childhood. That is if we continue to feed this vicious cycle.

Ask your pediatrician what a normal weight range is for each of your children.

Parents are forced out of denial and empowered by this knowledge. No longer will weight be a forbidden secret, but a symptom that can be healed by the family.

Many pediatricians feel helpless dealing with this obesity epidemic because it requires intense education and assistance to put the family on a healthy path. Time that most of them do not have to give. Most pediatricians have not even taken nutrition courses, so they do not feel comfortable being the expert either. But they can refer you to one.

Look at the back of your child's neck today and see if you notice a darker pigment where the skin has thickened, looking leathery with crevices - it actually looks dirty, but cannot be washed away. This may be acanthosis nigricans, which means your child is insulin resistant and is heading down a path toward illness. It is a warning sign that your family is not making the best choices. But you have the power to reverse this by helping your child to lose weight and by improving your family's diet and activity level.

© 2005 American Camp Association Inc. Founded in 1910, the American Camp Association is a national community of camp professionals and is dedicated to enriching the lives of children and adults through the camp experience.