In our fast paced world today, unhealthy eating habits are often the unintentional result of parents who are stressed and under time-constraints.
However, this is of concern as many medical conditions previously prevalent only in adults are becoming more frequently diagnosed in young children, and these conditions are life threatening, such as diabetes and heart disease.
Besides the physical impact of a poor diet, the emotional consequences of being overweight can include a diminished self confidence and compromised peer relationships. Frequent convenience meals may seem to be a harmless quick fix, however they translate into a constant intake of unhealthy fats, sugars and preservatives that may also exacerbate psychological conditions, such as concentration difficulties, anxiety and depression.
Even though they appear to be a quick source of comfort, theses foods actually do not satisfy the body for very long and actually leave you feeling hungry very quickly which in turn triggers the need to eat more. This creates a vicious cycle and can easily lead to uncontrollable eating.
A unhealthy lifestyle in a family may not just be related to poor food choices, but could be a reflection of a wider problem of inefficient boundaries and coping skills in general. Good-enough parenting involves amongst other things, providing your child with adequate information, modeling appropriate responses to life situations and enforcing appropriate boundaries.
Food could become a readily available alternative that a child can access at any time without having to need anyone elseEarly childhood learning lays the foundation of habits for the future. If parents model a healthy lifestyle with wise food choices coupled with fun outdoor play activities, chances are that these will be the habits that children will carry into their adult life.
Children may turn to food as a source of comfort if they are not given an opportunity to learn about feelings, how to identify and express them in appropriate ways. Furthermore, if a child is in a family where there is little parental involvement, where parents do not seem to be available to listen to, understand, encourage and support them through emotional difficulties, he/she may become lonely and insecure
Simple changes to enforce could be:
- Limiting treats, television and computer games to the weekend.
- Encouraging healthy snacks and outdoor play during the week.
- Rewarding behavior with a fun activity or quality time together rather than a sweet treat or take out
- Modeling a planned and controlled approach to stress and time management rather than a quick fix solution or instant gratification.
- Endeavouring to build a relationship with your children that facilitates acceptance and open communication about feelings. Children need to know that all emotions are valid and acceptable, but that there are appropriate and inappropriate ways of dealing with them.
- Teaching efficient coping mechanisms with which to work through their emotions such as play, exercise, art and music.