Slowing Down Revs Up Health

Could slowing down be the key to cultivating healthy habits in our kids? Although many New Year’s resolutions shift our focus to things we need to add to our lives to make us healthier, most of us already feel so overwhelmed that the thought of adding more to our to-do list is, well, overwhelming. This year instead of adding things to our to-do list, maybe we should focus on slowing down a little, so we can cultivate healthier habits in our kids.

Susan Sachs Lipman, founder of the slow-parenting movement and author of the new book Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, describes the idea of slow parenting as a way of taking time throughout the day to fully savor a few of the moments we share with our children. Lipman insists that slow parenting is not about moving along at a snail’s pace or about making life more complicated, but about taking one small step each day to connect with our kids in a meaningful way.

The super-sized, fast-paced world we live in makes it more difficult for both parents and children to eat healthful foods, be physically active and spend quality time together. With more dual-income earning families, advanced technology, and greater pressure on young kids to excel in sports and school, family life seems to be moving at a faster pace than our bodies and minds can keep up.

Three local moms, however, practice some slow-parenting methods of their own. They said that slowing down — just a little — has helped them cultivate healthier habits in their kids. All three mothers said they were happier when they decelerated from their fast-paced lives to take a walk around the block with their children, sat out a season of sports, or just took time to play with their children.

If you already think you do too much for your kids, you will be glad to know that slow parenting is not about doing more, but about taking one or two of the everyday moments you share together to play, enjoy, or just connect with your children in meaningful way.

Slowing down can give families the opportunity to make healthier food choices. Lipman said, “Slow parenting does not mean everything has to be done from scratch.” Nor does it mean that every activity has to be stopped.  “It just means doing things at the right pace for your family.”

For Jaquina Dobson, mom of 5-year-old Kaiya and 16-month-old Kenli, eating healthy, exercising, and taking time to slow down throughout the day is something she has always made a priority in her life. Jaquina said she took time to slow down and really look at what ingredients were in the foods she was eating after she became pregnant with her first child.

Since the birth of her first daughter, Jaquina said, “I became aware that just because things [foods] are sold as ‘natural’ I needed to do my own research to determine what was best for my family. Through this research, I changed the way I cook, the types of foods we eat, and how we live.”

Jaquina has managed to combine healthy eating with spending quality time with her daughters by taking trips to the local dairy farm to buy fresh milk. At the dairy farm, her daughters get to see the dairy cows and watch how the milk they drink is processed.

Jaquina also enjoys taking her daughters to the farmer’s market where they can pick out local fruits and vegetables. Studies show that children are more likely to eat the foods they grow in their own garden or help pick out at the grocery store, and this is true for the Dobson family. Jaquina said she packs her oldest daughter’s school lunch with a side of crunchy green peppers and carrots, and an apple for dessert.  Jaquina said her daughter loves eating the fruits and vegetables she helped pick out at the market or grocery store.

Another way the Dobson family takes time to slow down is by enjoying breakfast together. Jaquina’s oldest daughter Kaiya looks forward to eating frozen blueberries with breakfast each morning. Breakfast is a great opportunity to get the family talking about the events of the day. Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, the Dobson’s have discovered that it is worth the effort to sit down, connect with each other, and enjoy breakfast together as a family.

Because of the growing number of children at risk for developing heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, we all know how important it is to get the entire family moving. Jaquina makes an effort incorporate exercise into the time she spends with her children.

“We [she and her daughters] play a lot,” Jaquina said. “I do cardio while pushing the girls in the jogging stroller. I put the baby in the Moby wrap and we all go for a walk.”

Research has shown that children who grow up with active parents are more likely to become active adults. If you are an active person, you can use your active times to connect with your kids. For example, stop in the middle of your jog and take your child out of the stroller to pick flowers, dig in the dirt, or just lie on the grass and look up at the clouds together. Combining activity with slowing down to enjoy time together is a good way  to model healthy habits.

Marla Scalone is a mom to 12-year-old Dylan, 10-year-old Aaryn, and 8-year-old Evan.

“In a society that is driven by fast food and antibiotics, we do our best to steer clear of those things in order to stay healthy and teach our boys healthy habits,” Marla said. “Although they might not keep all the healthy habits we teach them throughout life, I hope they will know and remember a time when they were physically fit, active and felt good.”

With a lot of discipline and a little fun, Marla hopes her children will discover that good habits are as difficult to break as bad habits.

The Scalone’s busy lifestyle makes it very tempting for Marla to stop and grab fast food (and she does this from time to time), but the majority of the time she prepares a healthy meal that her family enjoys together. While no one can have perfect habits all the time, parents can commit to an overall mindset to cultivate and model healthy habits. Reduce the pace of activities in a way that is right for your family rather than follow a set of rules for parenting.

For the Scalone family, having dinner together is especially important. Marla said, “I grew up eating dinner with my family and it was the best part of my day. I hope my kids will carry that tradition on, as I feel family time is a healthy habit!”

To spend quality family time together and avoid the harsh pesticides found on many of the fresh fruits and vegetables sold in the grocery store, Marla’s husband, Carmelo, plants a vegetable garden in their backyard each spring. Marla said that over the past spring and summer her family ate from the garden each day, and her boys quickly developed a love for the taste of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, string beans, eggplant and sweet peppers. Besides providing healthy foods for the Scalone family, Marla said the family enjoyed spending time together caring for the garden.

“The kids would go out and work in the garden every day with their dad,” she said. “They enjoyed being able to pick the fresh ingredients that I would use to prepare dinner. It does take a little extra effort, but the extra money you spend on healthy foods will in the end save you money on doctor’s visits, medications, and time off from work with sick kids.”

To make it easier to feed your kids healthy foods, Marla suggests buying a large bag of carrots, string beans, broccoli and sugar snap peas and then separating them into small snack bags and placing them in the fridge at eye level to your child’s height. This way, the first thing your child sees when he or she opens the refrigerator door is a colorful serving of fruits and vegetables.

“If they see it,” Marla said, “and they are hungry, they will eat it!”

Marla said she has always encouraged healthy habits in her children, but it became even more important after her son Aaryn suffered a third concussion and started experiencing headaches, learning difficulties, memory lapses and sudden dizzy spells. The side effects from his concussions forced the Scalone family to reexamine their priorities.

“After seeing the chiropractor and adding more vitamins, herbs and healthy alkaline foods to Aaryn’s diet, he has been free of headaches,” she said.

The Scalone family also made a strong commitment to put family first after becoming frustrated with rushing their children to and from practice and sporting events. In an effort to teach their kids that it was okay to slow down, the Scalones decided to take a break from all sporting activities.

“My kids tell me it was the best season they have had,” Marla said.

From this break Marla said her family had time to cultivate healthier habits. “We were healthier because we weren’t running from here to there,” she said. “My stress level was down, and I wasn’t yelling or rushing around all the time. Society tricks us into thinking we have to do everything or our kids will miss out. What I discovered from our break in activities was that we needed to slow down or we will miss out.”

Traci Claybrook, mom of 6-year-old Kennedi and 3-year-old Kaden, said her family looks forward to their annual getaway to Lost Valley Ranch in Colorado each year. This “Dude Ranch” has no Internet connections, cellular towers, or any other modern technological amenities, so they get to slow down and spend time riding horses, swimming, fishing, river rafting, square dancing, and enjoying family meals around the campfire. For Traci the week without technology is a nice break because her husband, Russell, travels a lot during the workweek. She said the uninterrupted time they spend together at the ranch gives them a chance to reconnect with each other.

Even when the family is not on vacation, Traci feels it is important to slow down. When Russell is traveling for business, Traci strives to sit down to eat dinner with her kids every night. “It is a time we discuss the things we did that day and the things we look forward to doing together in the future,” Traci said. “Russell and I were blessed to have parents and siblings that supported and guided us when this was needed. In today’s society I feel that these things are taken for granted and everyone is always in a rush or too tired to mess with anything extra.”

For the Claybrook family, their belief in God is an important way they slow down to cultivate healthy habits in their kids. Taking time each night to thank God for their blessings is one way the Claybrook family spends quality time together before their children go to sleep.

“We feel that without a strong foundation in God our family’s healthy habits would not exist,” Traci said.

In her book, Lipman suggests taking simple steps in slowing down your lifestyle, such as parking and walking your kids to the front door of the school, instead of just dropping them off. The important thing is that you slow down to keep everything at the right pace for your family.

Categories: Health (Departments)