The old saying “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t really work, especially when it comes to raising teenagers. Child development scholar Jean Piaget identified that children at age 11 begin to start to be able to understand more abstract concepts. What does that mean for parents? Well, for me, it meant I could no longer tell my kids that eating lots of ice cream wasn’t healthy for kids but okay for adults. They had finally figured out that particular statement was a giant fib and I had to start setting a better example for my teens.
Demonstrating The Importance of Exercise
This may be a bit odd, but I was always better with exercise than I ever was with healthy eating. I’d discovered when I was a teenager, who was struggling with depression, that running helps alleviate the symptoms of my depression. As a mom, I didn’t have the luxury to leave for long runs outside, so I had switched to running on the treadmill. But I lacked consistency once my workouts moved indoors.
However, I knew a key part of living a healthy life and lowering your stress levels is engaging in regular exercise, preferably something that allows your heart rate to rise. I knew if I wanted my teens to prioritize regular exercise, I needed to set the example. Using a whiteboard, I created columns for the whole family to fill each month. My sections were:
- Duration of run
- Distance ran
- Program used
- Week totals
I didn’t make a big deal but placed the whiteboard where the whole family could pass it several times a day and see the progress I was making. By making the treadmill workouts a game, I caught my teens’ attention and before long, I was battling to keep up with my kids.
Learning To Model Healthy Eating Habits
While proper exercise can alleviate mood problems and strengthen the body, nothing can replace the benefits of healthy eating. With 1 in 3 American children being either overweight or obese, I have always been careful with what my children eat. But as I mentioned above, I was guilty of not always being that careful with what I consumed. However, I didn’t immediately throw out every scrap of non-organic food in my house. Some of the things I did instead were:
- Meal prep – When you have an active family, you likely already plan your meals a week in advance like many mothers do. But I decided to step up my game and start meal prepping on Sundays. From making my own salad mix to making sure my lunches were packed for the entire week, I have really enjoyed not having to stress over meals and not just opting for something frozen or ordered when I didn’t have time to make food.
- Portioned snacks – To help stop overeating or mindless snacking, I portioned up all the snacks in the house into plastic bags, which I washed and reused. I kept a reference sheet in the snack pantry so if anyone wanted, they could check to see the nutritional value of the snack they were eating. As my son was just starting his first wrestling season, he was actually the first to really utilize the nutrition info! There was also the nice side-effect that snacks didn’t disappear so quickly.
It takes a lot of work to help your children enjoy healthy things. But as you model a healthy lifestyle, it really can impact both you and your teenagers.