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How Parents Can Model Healthier Habits in the New Year

By Brandy Centolanza

When it comes to health and wellness, it’s not just about eating right and exercising routinely. Families who thrive take a more holistic approach to their well-being. This means focusing on the whole person and the connection between the mind, body and spirit in order to live a more positive, healthy life.

“Holistic health includes looking big picture at all the aspects that influence health: diet, lifestyle, stress and community as well as individual concerns,” explains Brian Keenan, a naturopathic doctor with Magnolia Natural Medicine. “It’s important that we look at things holistically because the sum of us is bigger than our parts.”

Dr. Mary Callahan, a local Fredericksburg pediatrician, says it’s important for both parents and children to “know the elements that interplay to influence basic health functions.” This includes eating a variety of healthy, nutritious foods, staying active, getting adequate sleep and managing stress, which can be difficult for moms and dads in today’s busy world.

“Worry, pressure and mental fatigue are inevitable,” Callahan says. “Figure out what you need to do to cope and practice it regularly to avoid those feelings from building up.”

When it comes to teaching kids about holistic health, “it’s the same as any behavior or habit you want to encourage: the sooner the better,” says Keenan. “Teaching our kids to be mindful when eating and teaching children that they are part of the global life web and to respect life, that can’t start soon enough.”

Simple ways to encourage children to live holistically include drinking water instead of sugary drinks, eating more whole foods instead of processed foods, taking family outings that incorporate physical activity, teaching kids how to handle emotions and communicate their needs and getting involved in your church or community.

“Parents can lead by example by eating well, drinking clean water, practicing good sleep habits, and avoiding excessive electronic use,” says Keenan. “What’s more is that parents need to teach their children that all these things go together and that they all work together to create a healthy lifestyle rather than being individual benefits.”

It can be challenging for parents to focus on their own health needs, especially when hectic schedules leave little time or energy for mothers and fathers to take care of themselves. But setting that good example is essential for the entire family’s well-being.

“Parents are often pulled in one hundred different ways on a regular basis, even for parents who have long-standing holistic health practices in place,” Keenan says. “When fatigue sets in, it can be hard to keep everything balanced because, well, life shows up. The most important thing parents can do is learn to forgive themselves and let go of comparisons or expectations.”

Callahan agrees.

“Good holistic health takes time, takes work and sometimes sacrifice, and takes a team effort,” she says. “Our children are always watching us. We need to talk to them about our choices and why we make them. We need to help them understand why we do what we do to keep ourselves going. Learn and grow with your child, improving yourself along the way. Know that in doing so, you are bettering not only your health outcome, but that of your children and their future as well.”

Brandy Centolanza
Brandy Centolanza is a freelance journalist who covers health, parenting, family travel, and the hospitality industry. She writes from her Virginia home surrounded by her husband of 20 years and their two teens, three cats,and a bearded dragon named Craig.

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