OK, by the time your kid hits the teenage years, they might think they're the big cheese and know everything there is to know about the universe. Yeah, W-R-O-N-G, peaches. Don't take the back seat on this one; offer up some pearls of knowledge in regards to exercise. We don't mean lecture them — save that for their first drunk fest — but toss out a few comments here and there about the wholesome goodness that is physical activity. Bring up such benefits as higher energy levels, steady sleeping patterns, weight loss, control of appetite and decreased mental stress.
If your teen has not exercised since that one swimming class back in grade four or the jaunty jog downstairs when the pizza delivery guy rang the bell, then an intense, expert, Russian street-fighting class is probably not the wisest choice of activity. Your child needs to feel confident about an activity and that they have a chance to succeed at it. So evaluate your teen's fitness level, and suggest accordingly. It's an even touchier issue if your child is obese, so be mindful, and take your kid's opinion into account.
If you spend your free time sucking the pixels out of your TV screen or chatting with Aunt Muriel on Skype for four hours, your child will follow suit. Children are heavily influenced by their surrounding environment; if it's not conducive to exercise, then it's not going to happen. Take the initiative, and start an exercise regime yourself. Whilst singing praises to the gods of fitness, your teen might even join you.
We don't mean with affirmative posters, but with exercise gear. No need for fancy treadmills (although those are always welcome); buy some dumbbells, a couple of fitness DVDs or a yoga mat, and just have it on display. If your teen is curious or too self-conscious to work out in front of others, he or she might put that gear to use when you're not looking. And if they see you using it, that's double the encouragement.
Your teen might reject your offer to go roller skating down the boardwalk in broad daylight with pink leg warmers on, but that doesn't mean they don't want your support. So show up at their sports games or dance recitals, and cheer your little heart out in the least embarrassing manner. They'll appreciate it, and the encouragement will do wonders for their self-esteem as well as their willingness to continue exercising.
Once you stumble upon the realization that your teenager needs more exercise, explore all your options. Don't force your kid into a basketball or hockey team if he or she possesses less than a gram of competitive edge. Consider swimming, yoga, Pilates, rock climbing, dancing… Loads of options are out there. Find one that suits your child's preferences. And don't guilt-trip them about not following in your footsteps toward becoming a sports maniac — it's not for everyone.
Safety in numbers, as they say. Offer to join your teen on his or her activity of choice. If they're too embarrassed of you (which is likely), offer to pay for a class at the local community centre for them and a friend. If your kid has a buddy for encouragement, he or she is more likely to stick to the fitness routine. And don't be stingy; offer to buy equipment or invest in a gym pass.
You're a parent; be a little devious. Get all mind-ninja-like, and create physical activities incognito — a family hike, a day at the pool, "let's play soccer" and "O-M-G! Is that a Frisbee?" Challenge them to take the stairs instead of the elevator, and quit driving them to school if it's in walking distance. These are not forced, I'm-trying-to-make-you-exercise-mwua-ha-ha-type of activities; they're also great bonding experiences, and your teen might even have fun. Le shock.
Which ideas worked for you? Leave your comments below!
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