Healthy Kids Learn from Dad
Healthy Kids Learn from Dad
By Beth Cline
“Everything I needed to know about life, I learned from my father,” is a quotation from a popular poster series. The poster goes on to list lessons such as discipline, drive and dedication. Yet, one of the most important lessons a father can teach his child about life is how to live a healthy one. Children are always ready to learn from their father. Father’s Day serves as a good time for dads to consider how best to spend special time with their children and pass on a healthy lifestyle.
Spending time with dad has many benefits to both child and father. Children with a closer bond to dad have a stronger sense of self, a healthier view of competition and physical abilities and even seem to have better relationships with their children later in life. Benefits of this important relationship also vary between daughters and sons. While statistics show both daughters and sons with a healthy relationship to their father are less likely to use drugs, abuse alcohol or skip school, daughters are even more influenced by a strong relationship. “They are 46% less likely to use drugs, 27% less likely to abuse alcohol and 52% less likely to skip school than their counterparts,” according to girlhealth.org, a website run by the US Department of Health and Human Services. Sons are more likely to develop strong communication skills if they have a solid relationship with their father.
Fathers gain many health benefits from such a relationship as well. Because they are setting an example, dads are more likely to watch what they eat, are more motivated to get active and more likely to encourage their children to do the same. Fathers with strong relationships to their children are more optimistic about the world, and less likely to be stressed. Parents.com also finds, “Raising kids forces men to look beyond themselves, which is very good for their mental well-being.” A healthy relationship with their children may even help fathers to live longer because they are more aware of being healthy and staying active.
While simply spending time with their children can strengthen the relationship, fathers can interact with them in a wide variety ways to teach children how to be healthier. Here are some ideas for activities to do together:
• Go on a bike ride through the local park.
• Play catch in the backyard.
• Organize a neighborhood pickup game of basketball or football with other fathers and children.
• Play strategy games together and give kids the opportunity to get away from the television and helps strengthen their minds while having fun with dad.
• Cook dinner together to give children the chance to select healthy foods and enjoy cooking or grilling.
• Team up to do chores around the house or yard. This helps kids accomplish a goal, have fun with dad and stay active.
• Get involved in a father/child playgroup. These groups can range from swim class to gymnastics and vary by age and child’s interests.
• Teach children the importance of regular exercise by hitting the gym together or going for a run. Allow children to set the pace of the workout to adapt to their limits.
• Encourage children in their athletic endeavors- attend baseball and football games, cheerleading competitions or whatever their sport of choice is, to cheer them on. Reward participation (not necessarily winning) with an outing like going to an Orioles game or cheering at the Marine Corps Marathon.
A child’s psychological health is just as important as their physical and can benefit equally from a strong father/child relationship. According to an article in The Orange County Register in 2004, “Fathers are cited more than mothers in issues such as psychological maladjustment… and behavioral problems.” Here are some ideas for fathers to be more involved in positively affecting children through quality time together:
• Spend time talking with children about their day, upcoming projects and school. This shows children that their lives are important to their father and also helps them become better communicators.
• Realize the father/daughter relationship is different from the father/son and adjust accordingly:
The father/daughter relationship sets the tone for every future male/female relationship she will have. Spend time together talking and using appropriate physical affection to help her learn to value herself and have a positive self-image.
The father/son relationship shows sons how to treat others and show affection towards them. Showing affection to sons is not only masculine but also helps them properly develop their skills.
• Encourage children to voice their opinion on household decisions directly affecting them, including bedtime and television-watching in appropriate settings. While parents have the final decision, it shows children their opinions are valued and helps them cultivate their decision-making skills.
• “Build the relationship with children from the very beginning by taking part in activities together on a daily basis,” says Susan Burghart, Training and Curriculum specialist with the Children Youth and Teen program on Marine Corps Base Quantico, who reminds dads, “Sometimes dad’s think their job doesn’t start until the child is older, but they should take the opportunity to engage in healthy activities together from day one.”
Much of what a child needs to know about healthy living can be learned from a father. A healthy father/child relationship gives benefits to both a father and child that will last a lifetime.
Articles in the Healthy Kids Series are presented by the Marine Corps Marathon Healthy Kids Fun Run. Visit www.marinemarathon.com. Beth Cline is the Public Relations Coordinator for the Marine Corps Marathon.