Many parents are faced with the problem of watching their teens become more and more unhealthy. Sodas, energy drinks, candy, fast food, and other unhealthy foods are more accessible and their motivation to exercise becomes less frequent. When they were kids they played all sorts of sports, participated in dance, and played outside with their friends. Now as they have aged sports are less inclusive, dance is for kids, and they’re play gaming systems inside with friends. Well, it’s not too late to change the tide. There are ways to get your teen to eat healthier and get active.
Have a Talk with Them
Communication with your teen is a key component in accomplishing any goals with them. Teens need logic to go along with direction. Commanding your teen to start exercising and eating right might work but chances are explaining why they should, will work better. Have the talk with them around the dinner table. Make the talk a family affair if needed. Let your teen know that you love them and are concerned about their health. Let them know that even though they feel invincible, their bodies are very fragile and unforgiving if treated badly.
Have facts about type 2 diabetes, strokes, and CVD’s on hand so that they understand the seriousness of their problem. Be sure they know that being healthy is not about how you look but about how your body feels. Anticipate all their reasons for not wanting to comply and be ready to refute them. Ask them to make small changes such as 1 less soda a day, more fruits and vegetables with each meal, and breaks from sitting around doing nothing to exercise a little. Learn what motivates them and use that to advance the conversation.
Start Cooking Better Meals and Eating Together
After you’ve had the talk, it’s time for action. Parents have to take responsibility for their part in this. You have to make time to cook better, healthier meals. Start adding more fruits and vegetables to meals. Encourage your teen to have at least 2 servings of fruits and vegetables with each meal. If you want your teen to be disciplined, you have to lead by example. Stop buying unhealthy snacks and drinks or start to significantly limit them. Encourage snacking on fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Make these foods handy so that the choice is obvious.
Try to have family meals as often as possible. Sometimes this may mean waking up earlier to have breakfast together. Make a schedule that won’t allow your teen to rush out of the house without breakfast. Pack meals the night before. Allow your teen to shop for groceries with you. Ask them to choose their favorite vegetables and fruits. At this stage variety is not important. If your teen likes asparagus, cook lots of asparagus and slowly introduce other vegetables.
Get More Exercise
You’ve already suggested more exercise, now you must guide them. First, you have to lead by example. Take them with you to your next fitness class. Get them a gym membership. Try to find out what fitness activities they enjoy and suggest they join a club or team. Remember that exercise isn’t only done in a gym or on a field. If your child likes gymnastics, dance, biking, or skating, embrace that and encourage them to commit to it.
Teens love new clothes (as if you didn’t already know that). Take them shopping for new workout clothes. They’ll be anxious to wear them which will encourage them to exercise.
It will be very important to revisit the talk. You may have to continuously remind them that you love them and are concerned about their health. Let them know the possible outcomes of a sedentary unhealthy lifestyle. This will not be easy; however it will make your child live a longer and healthier life. Something they will thank you for later.