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Shape our children well

PaulaBy Paula Bowers-Sanchez

I was approached by a grandmother with serious concerns for her granddaughter’s health. She told me the child makes poor food choices and is sometimes depressed. When I discovered her grandchild was 9 years old and weighed 140 pounds, I realized her concerns are becoming all too common in our Tribal communities.

We have to make changes.

I believe it is our responsibility to make sure our children receive proper nutrition, exercise and positive reinforcement to maintain a healthy heart, body and mind.

I have made changes in my own family by only allowing my son to eat fast food once a week (his favorite is Chick-fil-A). Since the end of school, he has participated in summer camp and activities from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, in addition to his regular “kid fit” classes (i.e. karate, kid Zumba, tennis and swimming). Remember to get your children off the couch and outside for some physical activity.

We, as parents and grandparents, have an obligation to give our children the tools they need to make sensible food choices and to teach our children the importance of exercise in their daily lives. In doing this we provide critical training in developing a healthy lifestyle children will carry into adulthood.

Children learn from their environment, so if we model healthy eating habits and regular exercise, they can’t help but pick it up and copy our behavior. My mom always said, “Your son will do what you do, so set a good example for him.”

Two important aspects of healthy eating are portion control and reducing the fat and sugar children eat. A few simple changes you can make include:

● Choose low-fat or non-fat dairy products

● Buy only low-sugar cereals

● Take skin off poultry

● Reduce or eliminate soda

● Choose regular size meals, NOT supersized

●Include fruits and veggies whenever possible

●Incorporate fish and chicken (not fried) into weekly meals

●Avoid high-fat condiments like mayonnaise, cream and butter

●Limit intake of treats like cookies, candy, pastries and donuts

Making small changes can make a big difference.

I strongly believe in positive reinforcement and encouragement.

Children prosper and excel when they emerge from an environment filled with encouragement and positive motivation. Always treat children as children; they do not have the experience of adults.

Remember, children are like little sponges, and we shape who they are and who they become. So, the more positive reinforcement they receive, the more encouragement and uplifting feedback we provide them, the more they will realize their potential.