Top 5 Ways to Keep Your Tweens and Teens Healthy, Part 1

We live in a pressure cooker these days and when it comes to sports and activities for our kids, it's no different. I talk to lots of parents who travel around the country with their kids for tournaments and meets. Some kids are multi-sport athletes so their season never ends. The media doesn't help much either. If a kid shows promise at the tender age of ten, he or she can be labeled the next (you fill in the blank) and all of a sudden all eyes are on this innocent kid to change the face of that particular sport. So much pressure!

We live in such a performance oriented society and as parents it can be easy to get caught up in the grind.  Anytime I attend one of my kid's basketball games, I see the level of effort parents go through to film every game, keep stats, and sign-up for services designed to help their kid get discovered. You see, I'm concerned because I think that when it comes to true athletic success for our kids it's not just about the wins and stats that make an athlete great, it's the not-so-obvious things we can do for our kids to make them healthier for their sport on and offseason. Below are my top 5 ways to keep your tween and/or teen healthy for the long haul.

Tip #1: Help them manage stress. Stress is the number one reason so many folks have workplace-related illnesses. If you think about it, one day our young people will be in that same environment and they'll have even more stress on them than we did. Young people are under a great deal amount of stress and it's constant. They face stressors on a daily basis and social media is the magnifying glass. You have to be intentional about helping your kids manage stress. Help them discern how stress manifests itself. Insomnia, anxiety, and sports injuries can be an indicator of high stress levels. Teach them about deep breathing exercises along with learning how to shut down way before bedtime. Talk to them about the importance of having quiet time to get settled and recharge, without their phones. It can be tough for us to do this as parents but our kids look to us to set an example so we owe it to them to help them get a handle on stress early in their lives.

Tip #2: Teach them the importance of sleep. There was a time when Starbucks Coffee was for grown-ups and now it's not uncommon to see teenagers loading up on energy drinks to stay alert in order to knock-out their deadline. The problem with caffeine is that it's addictive and over time, can wreak havoc on sleep patterns. Too much caffeine is known to disrupt deep sleep and without a good 9-10 hours (yes, your tweens and teens are toddlers again), their cognitive function is impaired, they get sick often, and they're even moodier (imagine that?). If your kid is stressed out (see tip #1), sleep is affected so keep an eye out for how these two areas overlap.  

The first step in teaching your kids about the importance of sleep is to model it yourself. Get in the habit of doing things that tell the kids that it's time to wind down. Designate a check-in spot for cellphones, turn off all televisions by 9 PM, talk with family, or get out a good book. Get your kids in the habit early of shutting things down and they will learn to value their quiet time and eventually, it will become a habit for them.

In my next post I'll discuss my remaining tips on how to keep your tweens and teens healthy for life. The great thing about these tips is that once they become a habit, your kid will have an arsenal of tools to help them in their sport and in life. 

3 Tips to Help Your Kids Exercise This Summer

As a busy mom of four kids getting a summer plan together for them is a job all by itself. I try to make sure that they do something that interests them but just recently I had an aha moment. This moment came from a series of talks with other busy moms about summer scheduling and what moms really want for their kids.  Yes, they want them to have fun, get rest, and keep reading to avoid the summer slide.  The other interesting thing is that they want their kids to be more active in general.  For example, some moms want their kids to go to the gym with them (not happening) or just play outside more.

According to the 2015 YMCA Family Health Snapshot Survey in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight, less than half of students got at least 60 minutes of activity each day during the summer. This alarming statistic is all the more reason to make sure your kids stay active this summer. Below are some easy, practical ways to incorporate more activity into your kids day:

Tip #1: Take advantage of downtime.  A half hour here or there can make a difference. For example, if you're hanging out at the house, go on a 20 minute discovery walk. When you call the activity something else, kids get excited and usually jump at the chance to spend some quality time with you.  For older kids, play some recreational basketball or ride bikes. Do this a few times a week and you can increase their physical activity time by 1-2 hours weekly!

Tip #2: Make video games count.  If the kids are wearing you down to play video games make it a requirement to do something active like Wii Sports or Just Dance.  Most kids play for between 30-45 minutes without thinking about it.  This is a great option especially when the weather prevents outdoor activity.  

Tip #3: Start a Wearables Contest. Just like the summer library reading kick-off program, get your kids a pedometer to kick-off tracking their steps daily.  An initial daily goal for kids up to age 10 is 3000 steps. Between the ages of 11-14, I recommend a step goal of 4.000-8,000. Kids over 14 can aim for 8,000-10000 steps per day.  You can keep it simple just by having your kids wear the pedometer or fitness tracker or create a calendar to record daily steps. I recommend that kids set personal goals and celebrate when they meet their personal goal. Doing it this way will avoid the sibling competition that can oftentimes detract from the activity. 

Try one of all of these suggestions and see which one works best for your family. Ultimately, you want to make sure you give your kids the recommended daily exercise to help them thrive throughout the summer, manage the summer blues, and be ready for strong school year. 

Fitwell Training Solutions offers an athletic summer program designed with your kid in mind.  Sign-up today!