Today’s children are the most inactive generation in human history. And it shows: one third of American kids are overweight or obese. This is triple what it was 30 years ago. Childhood obesity is not an isolated condition either: it’s a gateway to multiple physical and emotional health problems including heart disease, type-2 diabetes, low self-esteem and depression.
How did we get here? Well kids don’t walk or bike to school anymore. ‘Stranger danger’ is a thing. Schools are concerned about legal action so they’re banning ball sports and running in the playground. In short, it appears that our collective desire to safeguard children has blinded us from the longer-term harm we can unwittingly cause.
The thing is, there is actually no evidence to show our neighbourhoods are any more dangerous than they were 20 years ago. Statistically it is no more dangerous now for children to walk or bike to school – but almost nobody lets their kids do it. The fact that the Dutch have the world’s happiest children and the highest rates of cycling amongst children is no coincidence.
Healthy parent, healthy child
It’s not just that we’re bubble wrapping our children. By putting our health on the backburner, we model the wrong behaviour, too. A psychologist I used to work with in the US once remarked, “kids are terrible at listening to their parents, but boy are they good at mimicking them!” Those little faces in the back seat of your car, watching you drive 5 times around the Christmas shopping parking lot in order to get the ‘good spot’ so you don’t have to walk a few metres are paying closer attention than you might realise.
I know I’ve bombarded you with some scary statistics, but I’m going to give you two more: five out of ten children who have one parent who is overweight or obese will become overweight or obese themselves. Eight out of ten children who have two parents who are overweight or obese will become overweight or obese themselves.
Here’s the good news: the opposite is true too. Research shows that children of active fathers are 3.5 times more likely to be more active than children of inactive fathers. Basically, your kids are watching you. Soaking it all in. Copying you. So if you prioritise your physical and mental health, not only will you make a better parent, your children are likely to be fitter and healthier too. The numbers aren’t just mildly persuasive, they’re impossible to ignore.
A good parent is a selfish parent.
Carl Jung, he who thought a great deal about parent/child influence once said:
“The heaviest burden a child carries is the unlived life of their parents.’
I concede he probably wasn’t talking about health specifically but if you’re not taking care of your own health then you’re not living the life you could and indeed should. This is a burden you end up carrying – and passing onto your children.
If you want to remove this particular struggle from the next generation – no doubt they’ll have plenty of others to deal with – it’s simple. You need to put your oxygen mask on first. This is hands down the best gift you can give your family. Click below to get started.