As a parent, all you want is for your kids to grow up healthy and to do their best.
You want them to be smarter than you were and make better decisions.
That said, how do you lead the way for them to do this?
Many parents think their children’s mental development is a task that school is responsible for.
But here is a secret – kids only find value in what youfind value in.
If they see you reading, if they see that you are studying something – directing your attention to something other than IG and FB – then guess what? They are likely to find the same value in these activities.
1). Step One
Dah-dah-dah-DAH: Simply … exercise.
In his book Spark: How Exercise Will Improve the Performance of Your Brain, Dr John Ratey regards physical activity as ‘Miracle-Gro’ for the brain.
He states that BDNF (brain-derived neurotropic factor), which allows new connections and new materials to be digested by the brain, is increased with physical activity (Ratey, 2010).
Inactivity can not only create physical limitations – it can create mental limitations too.
Conditions such as dementia and cerebrovascular disease linked with ageing have also been heavily linked to inactivity (Tyndall et al, 2013).
Activity level is a factor we can deliberately and directly increase to decrease our risk of age-related cognitive diseases such as dementia (Eskes et al, 2010).
It is now suggested that family fitness has more positive effects on the children building healthy behaviours towards fitness (Telegraph, 2018).
In my opinion, making fitness the centre of your family life can only be a good thing.
No parent wakes up and says: ‘I want my kids to be unhealthy, overweight and unhappy’.
Walking is free, and so are bodyweight circuits.
2) Step Two
Cut down screen time.
Attention and focus are diminishing in our schools and workplaces.
There are lots of factors contributing to this, but I am convinced that our use of screens for most things these days is a big part of it – there is something about screens that makes it hard to break away.
Although the tabloids tend to sensationalize events and headlines, there is some truth to the predictions that the teenagers of today will be the most obese and will have the lowest life expectancy since records began. Screen time has to be a factor in this.
To much screen time is something I am certainly guilty of myself and constantly working on improving.
When it comes to kids, it’s about compromise – give and take.
Dr Stu Biddle recommends that humans should ensure they move every 30 minutes. So make an agreement that every 30 minutes, the kids owe you 5 minutes of any exercise (burpees and squats are a good combo).
You can also have a time restriction period when it comes to smartphones too. I use this one all the time.
Allow a period in the morning (mine is 0530 – 0700) where you can check social media, watch YouTube, etc – you know the crack.
Then allow the same in the evening (my times are 1700 – 1800).
This has certainly increased my attention span along with my productivity.
3). Step Three
Think about breathing.
Mindfulness has been trendy in the Western world for quite some time now, with Andy Puddicombe of Headspace being one of its early proponents.
Obviously getting kids to sit for 30 minutes in silence is not going to happen.
On the other hand, asking them to take 10 deep breaths throughout the day is, I think, manageable. Especially when you tell them it could help them become the next Bruce Banner (Incredible Hulk) or Wonder Woman.
Start the technique one night just before bed. Tell the kids a story. You are on a desert island and relaxing with a hot cocoa (or something like that). Every time you add something to the story, get them to take a deep breath in and then out.
Inhale – Pause – Exhale – Pause
This three-step method is something that is simple and could just increase your family’s awareness of where all its attention is directed.
Ratey (2010) Spark!How Exercise Will Improve The Performance of your Brain.First Edition. United States: Quercus
Tyndall et al (2013) The Brain-In-Motion Study: Effect Of A 6-Month Aerobic Exercise Intervention On Cerebrovascular Regulation And Cognitive Function In Older Adults.[Online] Available from: https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/1471-2318-13-21
Eskes et al (2010) Contribution Of Physical Fitness, Cerebrovascular Reserve And Cognitive Stimulation To Cognitive Function In Postmenopausal Women.[Online] Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2967376/pdf/fnagi-02-00137.pdf
Guardian (2018) Millennials set to be the Fattest Generation of Britons, Research Shows.[Online] Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/feb/26/millennials-set-to-be-the-fattest-generation-of-britons-research-shows
Finnish National Board of Education (2012) Physical Activity and Learning – Summary Status Review October 2012.[Online] Available from: http://www.oph.fi/download/145366_Physical_activity_and_learning.pdf
Telegraph (2018) Sweat It Out: The Rise Of Family Fitness.[Online] Available from: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/body/sweat-rise-family-fitness/