Thursday, 29 December 2011

Unravelling the mystery of a healthy childhood.

Health is every one’s quest in life. Parents want to be healthy; they want their kids to be healthy. So is health all about food, exercise? Or is health a lifestyle that you teach your kids about?

The true secret of health and a healthy lifelong lifestyle is ‘keeping it simple’. We need to gift our kids simple everyday essential things to ensure that they remain healthy in mind, body and soul.

THE GIFT OF SIMPLE FOOD: The complexity of competition, stress, fast pace and chemical-laced lifestyle that we have got so used to giving our kids, needs to be shown the back door. When was the last time you really asked your child what he wants you to cook? And then actually gave him that without changing his choice to suit your convenience? Worried that your child will ask you for pizza? Great! Put on a chef’s cap for both of you—drag the dad if possible—wear an apron and start preparing a homemade pizza, with veggies, cheese, and wheat base.

Pack away all the excuses like- ‘I am a working mom’, ‘I don’t have time’, ‘My child does not like the food I cook’, ‘He loves packaged food’, ‘I don’t get time’ etc. This weekend cook a wholesome meal for your child, of his/her choice, with your child helping you if possible. Its okay if he/she drips, drops, spoils your million rupees designer kitchen! Then sit down and enjoy the meal together. See the smile spread on his/her face.

All that packaged food that we tend to give our children has additives and chemicals which are harmful for health. Moreover they have a higher salt content which can lead to early problems of high blood pressure and heart diseases. Scientific studies have shown that many of the additives can cause attention deficit problems and research on cancer has also shown that cancer cells thrive in conditions of high salt and sugar content.

THE SIMPLE GIFT OF WATER: Throw out all the soft drink, tetra juice packs and let your child drink water. Resist the urge to flavour it with sugar or additives. Just pure, simple, unadulterated water- the gift of a life time. Water has oxygen and oxygen is good for blood circulation and blood circulation keeps the brain alert and active. An active brain is good for intelligence. Intelligent children become achievers. Phew! Isn’t that what you want? Then stop listening to all those silly ads that claim that ‘this drink gives your child glucose’ and ‘this drink gives your child brain food’ etc, etc. Keep It Simple Silly. Drink water… together. It’s more fun!

THE SIMPLE GIFT OF PLAY: Buy your child toys, not gadgets! Yes, computer games, video games, even battery-operated toys are not toys. They are gadgets or rather monster toys. Why would you want to gift your child a monster? Your child is intelligent, active, sharp and can solve all video games? Then it means that your child needs toys that stimulate and challenge and as Vygotsky, the Russian educationist said, your child needs to reach ZPD - the Zone of Proximal Development.

Take your child to the next level of play, take him/her from what he/she can do to what he/she finds a challenge to do. This will stimulate interest, keep your child occupied, enhance thinking and problem solving and improve attention abilities and at the same time relax and calm your child. No video games can do all this. Video games teach children to win at any cost, to drive yourself to defeat others, kill others, destroy others. Video games make children aggressive, irritable and restless. Video games (computers, mobile games, play station all included) make children violent and more prone to stress-related diseases.

Keep It Simple Silly. This X’mas, gift your child toys: intricate jigsaws, board games, a cycle, a sports kit, a make-it-yourself kit. Don’t just buy… think, relate to your child’s interest, search and buy.

THE GIFT OF 'NO T.V. LAND': Analyse the kind of television programs your child is watching with you. A serial in which the protagonist is being raped, sold to a brothel? A wife having an extra-marital affair or a wife plotting to kill her husband? Or worse, a husband plotting against his family, having a mistress…. God! Is this what our kids are watching? Night after night? Sitting with their parents? At an age when they cannot distinguish between reality and fantasy? All this will affect their emotional development.

As well known child psychoanalyst Erik Erikson had said in his theory of emotional development, ‘They will learn to mistrust, they will develop low self esteem and will also develop self-doubt’. Young children are developing moral values at that age and if they are exposed to such immoral and unethical concepts then what will happen to the ethical structure of society?

This weekend switch off the television. Ouch! Even the thought is difficult? Okay, then at least switch it off at dinner and together time. No television droning in the background while you help your child with homework, or are playing a board game. Take a pledge that no family drama soaps or reality shows that make children the ‘bali ka bakra’ will be viewed in your home. Can’t stay without it? Then buy a television system in which you can record programs and then watch them when your child is not at home! Keep It Simple Silly. Make your own entertainment.

THE GIFT OF 'SIMPLY SLEEP': ‘It’s time to go to bed,’ was what traditional parents would say, and then the mother or father would bathe the child (a warm water bath helps relax muscles and relaxed children sleep faster) while talking to the child  about his/her day (bonding time with the parents helps the child develop positive self esteem)  put on fresh night clothes for the child, (fresh clothes help children relax, and helps the skin breathe) tuck him in bed, read him a story or sing him a lullaby and then as the child’s eyes slowly drooped shut, the parent would kiss them on the forehead, whisper complementary sentences like, my sweet girl, my brave boy, my good child etc (positive motivation just before bed time helps work on the child’s confidence and self esteem) and leave the child to sleep peacefully at nine o’clock at night! Sounds like a fantasy right? Do gift your child this fantasy instead of the horror of being told to ‘Go brush your teeth, while I watch this important serial’, ‘Now go and wear your pyjamas and come and sit with me on the sofa while I watch my favourite serial’ and then the child falls asleep on the sofa with a television set shrilling away violent dialogues or gory war images or sobs of soap heroines. This isn’t lovely background music for your child to sleep in. No wonder your child wakes up in the middle of the night with nightmares or bed wets or has a fitful night and is dull or irritable in the morning and drowsy in school. Brain research says that sleep time is when the brain organises information collected in the daytime. When the child’s brain does not get enough sleep then the child can suffer from inability to retain facts, get confused, forget information easily and chronic sleep deprivation also leads to irritability violence and inattentiveness. Keep It Simple Silly - make your child a ‘sleeping beauty’!

So, when you gift wrap all these simple gifts together, then you will be gifting your child the most precious gift: A safe, healthy, love-filled childhood and a fantastic life ahead. If all these simple gifts sound difficult to do on a daily basis, then at least gift this to them on weekends!