The health and vitality of a child are a result of various factors, with diet being a primary ingredient. Parents have near total control of their children’s diet for the first few years of their life. As the child gets older, this control begins to diminish, however, an involved parent should be able to keep a tight rein on this through the adolescent years. Twelve good years of a balanced diet should definitely get a child off on the right foot.
Activities which promote exercise are the second major factor for promoting health and vitality in children. A child with a balanced diet should have adequate energy and motivation to participate in competitive sports and outdoor activities. However, if a child on an excellent diet is not allowed to participate in athletic endeavors, and is put in front of a computer or TV, and encouraged to play video games and watch cartoons, then only the parent can be deemed responsible. Combine poor diet with parents who discourage athletic participation and you have the recipe for childhood obesity.
Some children develop their motor skills early. These children are superior athletes in their age group and naturally develop an interest in sports in which they easily excel. Children that develop more slowly, need encouragement and some strong coaching from their parents to bring out their hidden instinctive talents. If this parental encouragement is missing, then it is difficult for a young child to find another influence, especially when they may not feel the need to seek it. Professional sports definitely play an important role here. The Derek Jeter’s, Tom Brady’s and Lance Armstrong’s of our culture are touted as perfect role models by various forms of media, but especially that of television. There is always a chance that a young child who spends lots of time watching TV can end up inspired by athletes because of the hero worship syndrome. This is one benefit weighted against the many evils of excess television exposure. America’s double edged, but unbalanced sword.
There is a growing movement in America today to put forth legislation with the aim of stamping out childhood obesity. Part of this plan calls for intervention, which could cause parents to lose custody of their children if they reach extreme levels by a certain age. This poses the question, how have we arrived at this point? Every parent cannot be blessed with children that have perfectly balanced metabolisms and a natural gift for athletics. But, how easy is it to give a little attention to your own offspring and to direct them down the path of a normal, active childhood. Is it difficult to put a Wal-Mart bicycle under the tree for their fourth Christmas and to take them into the yard and help them learn to ride it? Do parents really need to feed their children fast foods laden with salt and fats a half dozen times per week? Does grocery shopping have to include prepackaged products with high sugar content? Can’t soft drinks like Coca-Cola and Mountain Dew be removed from the home and replaced with natural juices and vitamin water? Are fresh fruits and vegetables so hard to add to the diet? Is it that difficult to take your child to swimming lessons, T-ball practice or the bowling alley from time to time?
So, if a parent does not have the knowledge, motivation, aptitude or financial resources to provide a stable, healthy home environment for their child that can steer them away from the path of obesity, should that child be removed to a place where they have a chance to lead a normal life? If they have hormonal imbalances that need medical attention, should they not receive that attention? Where is the line between today’s most obese nation on earth, and that world described by Aldous Huxley in his controversial novel Brave New World?
This Atlanta Examiner does not feel qualified to answer any of these questions, just motivated to encourage everyone to eat in moderation, exercise more and surround themselves with people who feel the same. If you have children, get them involved in cycling clubs, such as the East Atlanta Kids Club or the Dick Lane Velodrome Little League. If you are limited on funds for purchasing a bike for your child, contact sopobikes.org and they might be able to help round up all the parts for you and your child to build your own, very affordably. This would not only save money, but also stimulate even more interest in cycling for your child as a hobby and activity. Let’s keep the pedals churning and maybe we will not have to resort to legislating our child rearing responsibilities.
Drop by the Flying Colors Butterfly Festival at Chattahoochee Nature Center on Willeo Road this weekend where young children get in free. See firsthand how easy it is to surround yourself with fun, active families in the bountiful natural resources of greater Atlanta.