"Not just food and nourishment...but how are we feeding them soul, mind & body?"
In our busy, high-pressured world as parents it is SO super easy to overlook the overall lifestyle we are 'feeding' our children!
Today, I want to briefly focus on ten areas that I think all of us should periodically assess. You may have some of your own categories or suggestions. Please feel free to comment below with any of your thoughts :)
1) Feed them a nutrient dense diet that is chock full of vitamins & minerals!
I do believe it IS important to watch what our children eat! No so easy to do in our pre-packaged food world, but nonetheless good nutrition will give your children ample nutrients to feed their growing bodies & minds. As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist I have some thoughts about it: loads of veggies, some fruit, ample lean protein & even some healthy fats in there to boot. Note: always talk to your Doctor or Health Practitioner if you're unsure about making dramatic changes.
2) Feed them a schedule that allows ample time for rest!
What are we feeding them in the area of sleep? I read an article today that discussed how deprived teens in particular are these days in regards to sleep. Going to bed too late, electronics in the eve, distracted by entertainment, and overall wasting time can be contributors to not enough sleep. Not every child will have the same needs, but all children will need adequate & consistent sleep times. Ensure your children have a sleeping area that is: cozy, safe, free of entertainment distractions, and allow time for your child to wind down a bit before actually hitting the hay (i.e. story time & bath times for the little ones; reading time for the older ones before lights out)
3) Feed them a diet of heading outdoors!
Heard of 'nature deficit disorder"? It is a phrase I've heard a number of times from 'experts' that say our children are spending WAY too much time indoors...I happen to agree. Whatever your thoughts on how far we've gone as a society in this area, it is wise to allow our children a set time allotment EVERYDAY to get outdoors for some fresh air, & the change of scenery alone! If weather doesn't cooperate then simply try to get out the next day. Make time for: hikes, parks, running around in open fields, backyard playtime...these are all good uses of our children's time.
4) Feed them a lifestyle of active living!
Exercise!!! Our children's daily 'diets' need a steady form of active movements each & everyday. It can help support healthy cardiovascular systems, lungs and a strong body. It is not always easy in our busy paced lifestyles to stay active on a daily basis...but we simply need to look for easy opportunities to do so. Park away from places you're frequenting, run around outside for a bit before leaving the house (i.e. tell Johnny to get outside to run his sillies out before you go to your appointments), choose extracurriculars that involve some form of physical activity (where possible) and look for times to simply get out & walk as a family :)
5) Feed them a healthy entertainment 'diet'!
From TV, to the internet, to handheld devices...it really is so sad that we as a society have lost reliance on our face-to-face relationships & seemed to have replaced them with computer devices. This is a generalization of course, but we all know how much our children would play with these gadgets all day if we allowed them to!!! In our home (and this could be adapted to work in yours) video games and extra TV shows are for weekends only, and special occasions as deemed appropriate by Mom or Dad. TV viewings are strictly moderated to be shows that are: uplifting, non-sexual, non-violent (unless it relates to the benefit of the plot; say like a super hero show) and no filthy language. I will usually check out any potential movies or media watchings on Plugged In Online if I'm unsure. We also ask family's that we trust for shows that they enjoy watching as a family. We have made the drastic decision (more to save money than anything!) to not have cable in the home. We use videos and YouTube instead.
*My hubby & I were both TV/movie-aholics growing up & both of us struggled with various issues related to this. So I realize we may be a bit more sensitive on this issue. However, whatever criteria YOUR family comes up with, remember that what we put into our hearts will effect our thoughts & attitudes (especially when repeated over time).
6) Feed them a steady influence of positive role models!
This one can be tricky. I admit it still is tricky for my family at times. But my goal is always keeping an eye out for positive role models that each one of my children can spend time with in various settings.
Too many times children are bombarded by negative influences everyday (through media, school, friends, etc. etc.) and it can be hard to counteract that, even if we are trying to be diligent as parents.
Let me give you a couple practical examples from our home--> Our second oldest son loves to work & earn money. He just has this innate drive to work & work hard! There is a farmer at our church (a small men's group leader, a friend of my husband's) who hired him to work at the farm for a few days over the summer. We felt this was a positive experience even more so than the opportunity to make money because of the great influence he has been on our son. Another example: our eldest son has an amazing talent at playing drums. We searched & searched for a drum instructor, but could never find one with the same convictions or that we felt comfortable using for one-on-one lessons. Finally we found a young man at our church who has exceptional character, and already plays music in our youth band. So our son has already began the lessons & without doubt it has been a positive experience for him. It is again, a win-win situation.
***Look for those opportunities to spend time with families you admire, serving with organizations you find noble, and encouraging positive peer relationships, as much as you can :)
7) Feed them a steady diet of wholesome, classic books!
I so appreciate our local libraries and frequent them almost every week. However, many of the classics have been removed (not all, but so many goodies are out of print!) that I have begun to make my own library at home.
I look for good classic books (with great moral lessons, no language and some that are just plain fun) at used book sales, online and generally wherever I can find them. My favs will prob differ from yours, but in general some of the books that have been in print for hundreds of years (and have been modified to be in readable English of course!) have much more substance then some of the new ones that have come to line our shelves. Again, every family will differ in their convictions, but I feel the more classics we can expose our children to...the better :)
8) Feed them a 'diet' of fun, family time!
Do you have a regular family day scheduled in? Do you make the time for fun in your family's bustling itinerary? Some of our closest family friends have modeled this for us with great success in their families. It can be as easy as simply choosing a regular day set out for nothing but time with immediate family (maybe throw some close family friends in there and/or church). It allows the children to have something weekly to look forward to. With busier schedules, it may be more prudent to pick an evening or two. For those with spouses away from the home, it may even be wiser still to have a few nights of stay-cation time slots together when he/she returns. However, no matter what will work for YOUR family, keep in mind that your children will probably think more highly of these times then you can even imagine!
9) Feed them a lifetime of making memories together!
Often the best memories in life cannot be pre-planned, but with some careful thought & preparation, AWESOME family traditions can definitely be made. For some of us this could involve: every year at Christmas we go cut down a fresh tree followed by fresh hot chocolate; every Thanksgiving we go to our favourite fall fair; every Family Day (for us Canadians!) we go out for dinner at our favourite restaurant; every Sunday we have Daddy's special breakfast....the possibilities are endless! And they don't have to cost anything either. We know families that are on a very strict budget that find great traditions to embark on (regular places to visit, walk to, or activities to even do in the home). So use your imagination; talk to your spouse and/or children & get planning :)
10) Last, but not least, we feed them a healthy dose of 'living on purpose'!
Spiritually is a part of who we are as humans, and yet with our busy lifestyles, it can sadly be one of the first things to go. Visiting a healthy, thriving church is a great way to start. Finding ways to give back to the community is another way to model to your children that life is 'not always about them'. Serving others; loving others; receiving love from our Loving Creator & giving it back to others.
I experienced this on a large scale when I made Jesus Christ my Lord & Saviour as a young adult. It became the absolute BEST decision I've ever made with my life!!! I can see how that one decision has positively affected our children, and changed the way I think about raising them. It has affected my marriage, and my relationships with others.
Wherever you are in your journey, begin to look around you for positive role models that are already living on purpose; there are sure to be others who are farther along in their journeys & who would be willing to share how they've made it this far :)
*for more info on exploring Jesus check out this page--> The Purpose Driven Life
***Please take the time to share your thoughts on how YOUR family lives on purpose in any of the above mentioned areas (feel free to comment below).