Back in March we talked about the 2016 US Report Card for Physical Activity for Children and Youth compiled by The National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity. The statistics in that report are sobering (you can read the earlier post here)(here is the link to the entire report).
One of the statistics that caught our attention was in the Family and Peers section:
And this one:
The data would suggest that many teens- especially teen girls- lose both parent engagement and encouragement to stay active in the high school years.
We talked with Joanna B, local mom to 3 active teen girls and high school guidance counselor, about how to keep teens active and how to stay engaged in fitness activities with your kids.
Joanna says that this endeavor (and statistic) starts well before the teenage years. “I’ve always been active with my girls, and they’ve been involved in sports since they were very young.” In their family an active lifestyle isn’t something they think about- it’s just something they live. “We did stuff all the time when the kids were little: hiking, swimming, park trips, biking. All three kids took to sports quickly and have been involved ever since.” The “secret” is just to start young and “do it with them,”
Set the tone (and do it as a family):
Joanna told us that she gets up and goes to the gym herself every morning “the girls are just used to seeing that, they see me taking that time and staying active.” The example set by Mom sets the tone for the entire family. Joanna’s family hikes together on the weekends and take dog walks together in the evening. “Kids like to do what parents do, so if you’re doing it too, they’ll want to do it.” There are lots of ways to keep the family activities fun: boating/wakeboarding/tubing in the summer, snow skiing or snowshoeing in the winter, etc.
Encourage friendships with active kids:
Find other families who value the same things you do; and this is easier than it seems. When kids are little and in sports you start to make friendships with other kids and families on the team, often those friendships continue as the years go by or your kids make new friendships with new teammates. Part of this goes back to setting the tone and making activity “normal.” If your kids see their parents and their peers staying active they’re going to want to do it to (positive peer pressure wins again!). Joanna’s family keeps it fun by taking other families/kids along on activities and trips; sports and activities become a social outlet as well.
Stay active year round:
Having kids involved in sports or athletic activities year round may seem like a lot of work, but it teaches kids valuable skills. The biggest skill Joanna has seen her kids develop is time management. Kids who are involved in sports have after school practices and active schedules. This means kids have to learn how to prioritize practices, games, homework, social activities, etc and stay on top of their schedule. Joanna says she observes this skill set not only with her own girls, but with her students as well. For this reason and others Joanna’s girls get to choose the sport/athletic activity they’re involved in, but the rule is they have to pick one. And Joanna believes a break every once in a while can be a good thing- as long as the kids start back up again. She also says to remember to ask for help: shuffling three kids to three separate sports can be a lot of running around, so she relies on other parents/friends for help, just another area where it helps to have friends with kids who have similar interests as your own!
Find something the kids enjoy:
The fastest way to get a kid to burn out is to force them into an activity they don’t enjoy. Joanna’s girls have tried basketball, softball, volleyball, soccer, track, dance, and others over the years. “Don’t make it the sport that the parent wants them to do; let kids try a few sports and find something they enjoy, even if they aren’t very good at it, enjoying it is more important.” She says her girls have really enjoyed soccer, partly because it is a game that mom never played and didn’t know much about- so when she was on the sidelines she was there just for her kids, not critiquing, not coaching, just rooting for and supporting her kids- this meant a lot to her girls.
Get Started NOW:
No matter what age your kids are, Joanna says the best thing to do is to get started moving now. If you have a tween/teen who hasn’t been active- don’t worry about time lost, just start from here. It’s never too late. Joanna says “when kids start to get older we tend to think that they want to be around their parents less, but in a weird way I think they really DO want to do stuff with us and be around us.” So do stuff together, encourage your kids to try new things- and be willing to try new things alongside them. Are you horrible at dance? Doesn’t matter- take your teenager and go try a dance class together. Not only will it get both of you up and active, but chances are you’ll make some memories and bond over the experience as well.
We wish you good health,
Columbia Basin Racquet Club